Host City: Nagano, Japan
Venue(s): Hakuba Ski Jumping Stadium, Hakuba
Date Started: February 17, 1998
Date Finished: February 17, 1998
Format: Two jumps per team member, with both scored on distance and form. Four members per team, with all four jumps in each round to count towards team total.
The events of the 1994 Winter Olympics stayed long in the memory for Japanese sports fans.
Needing only a modest distance to secure gold for his team Masahiko Harada made a complete mess of his jump and gifted the title to Germany. The most recent World Championship title had gone to Finland but Japanese success in Nagano had earned the mantle of favourites for this event.
Halfway through the first round all was going well for Japan. Okabe and Saito had put the Japanese into lead and next it was the turn of world champion Harada to jump, but Harada’s effort turned into an unmitigated disaster, and even caused his team to be subtracted points from their total. Austria, Germany and Norway would all overtake Japan and fill the first three places as the first round closed. During the interval between the two rounds snow fell and it seemed possible that the second round might be cancelled and Austria would be crowned champions. To the relief of the home fans the weather improved and the event continued. The pattern for the second set of jumps mirrored the first and Japan gained back points from their opening jumpers. When Harada stood at the top of the hill for his second jump the title was again within his team’s reach. As his nation collectively held their breath he came down the ramp, leapt and then hung in the air for an eternity, landing only at 137.0 m to equal the Olympic best set minutes earlier by Okabe. This gave Japan a clear lead with only a distance of 90.5 needed by Funaki to ensure victory. Funaki’s leap of 125 m was the cue for wild celebrations and considerable relief for the home team.