KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — Japan’s top ski jumper, Noriaki Kasai, is already thinking four years ahead to the next Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
For most athletes, presuming that they will qualify for another Olympic team would be considered audacious. But Kasai is no ordinary athlete. At 41, he is taking part in a record-tying seventh Winter Games (along with the Russian luger Albert Demchenko), a remarkable feat in any sport, let alone one fraught with peril like ski jumping.
“I will try to get to an eighth Olympics,” Kasai said matter-of-factly three days before the opening ceremony.
It was hard to tell whether Kasai was serious or simply paying lip service to his reputation as the iron man of a sport in which many jumpers retire when they reach their 30s. But given the surprising success of a jumper who is twice the age of some of his rivals here, his ambition cannot be discounted.
He said he was motivated to take part in the Sochi Games because he had not yet won a gold medal.
Kasai’s quest for a second Olympic medal began on Sunday on the normal hill. He finished eighth. He will also jump in the large hill event and the four-man team event.
Whether or not Kasai wins a medal here or makes it to the Winter Games in 2018, his legacy is largely complete. In fact, his résumé reads like a road map of modern ski jumping in Japan, which rose to prominence in the 1990s as its jumpers took advantage of their small size to fly farther, and was then undone by new equipment and rule changes introduced a decade ago to deter unhealthy weight loss in jumpers.
Against all odds, Kasai, the captain of the Japanese team, has also been part of the revival of Japan’s jumping program, which has received a lift from the emergence of several top-ranked female jumpers.
He has done his part, too. In January, Kasai became the oldest jumper to win a World Cup event when he was victorious in Bad Mitterndorf, Austria. Kasai was ranked third in the world before the Olympics, his highest ranking since the 1998-99 season, and a leap from his 24th-place finish last season.
“It’s been two years since my last victory,” Kasai said after winning an event last summer. “I was in my 30s then, and now I’m in my 40s, which makes me even happier and shows that I can still compete with the best in the world.”
Kasai has been diligent about staying in shape as well as changing his jumping style. Early in his career, he earned the moniker “kamikaze” for a fearless approach.
As with most jumpers, injuries have taken their toll. In 1994, he broke his left shoulder while training, and he broke it again four months later, forcing him to sit out the season. Balky knees have curtailed his workouts. Last week, he did not take practice jumps at the Olympic facility, deciding instead to go shopping, see friends and relax, while still tending to his duties as team captain.
Kasai’s more judicious training schedule may have extended his career, said Satoshi Okazaki, a Japanese journalist who has written a book about Kasai.
“It is an amazing fact that Kasai got a ticket to the Olympics seven times in a row,” he said by email. “However, the more surprising thing is that he is 41 years old and his condition for this Olympics seems to be the best compared to the previous six Olympics.”
Kasai said the reason for his success has less to do with his training and more to do with his desire for continual improvement.
“There is no secret to my long career,” Kasai said on Saturday. “My regrets are my motivation.”
Kasai’s road to the Olympics began in the small town of Shimokawa, in a remote part of Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan’s four largest islands. He took up ski jumping just a few years after Japan swept the men’s normal hill event at the Games in Sapporo in 1972, the year he was born.
Kasai made his debut in a World Cup event in 1989 and made his Olympic debut in 1992 in Albertville, France, where he finished fourth in the four-man team event. In 1994, Kasai was part of another four-man team that won a silver medal at the Games in Lillehammer, Norway.
After falling as far as 51st in the world rankings and finishing as low as 49th in the Olympics in Salt Lake City in 2002, Kasai, who is 5 feet 10 inches and 137 pounds, has worked to stay in shape. A member of the Tsuchiya Home Ski Team, a corporate ski jump team in Hokkaido, he has also become a role model to younger jumpers who admire his ability to think of the long term.
葛西纪明的世界排名一度曾降至51名，在2002年盐湖城冬奥会中排名49。之后，葛西纪明仍然一直努力锻炼保持体能，他身高5英尺10英寸(约合1.76米)，体重137磅(约合62公斤)。作为北海道一家由企业赞助的跳台滑雪俱乐部，土屋住宅滑雪队(Tsuchiya Home Ski Team)的成员，葛西纪明也是年轻运动员的一个榜样，他们钦佩他眼光长远。
“It’s not possible in Europe for someone to have the same career as Kasai, over 40 years old,” said Janne Vaatainen, the Finnish coach of Tsuchiya Home Ski Team. “He’s seen so many things in his career. This is unbelievable that he’s willing to change.”