There was plenty of distance covered on Friday at RusSki Gorki Jumping Center in Sochi as the men took to the individual large hill looking to qualify for Saturday's final.
Austria's Michael Hayboeck won the qualification round, and at the conclusion, the field of 61 jumpers was narrowed down to 50.
Japan's Reruhi Shimizu stole the show midway through the session, jumping 130.5 meters to excite the crowd and post the top score of the qualification round to that point, per NBC Olympics web producer Greg Ferraro:
But moments later, Hayboeck overtook Shimizu atop the standings with a brilliant jump that earned him a score of 124.8 and a berth in the next round.
Japan's Daiki Ito would secure the second-best score late in the round with a 130.5-meter jump that scored a qualifying-best 55.5 from the judges.
|Men's Ski Jumping Large Hill Qualifying Results|
|1||Michael Hayboeck (AUT)||124.8|
|2||Daiki Ito (JPN)||122.0|
|3||Reruhi Shimizu (JPN)||120.4|
|4||Marinus Kraus (GER)||120.2|
|5||Anssi Koivuranta (FIN)||118.9|
|T6||Thomas Morgenstern (AUT)||116.0|
|T6||Taku Takeuchi (JPN)||116.0|
|8||Jernej Damjan (SLO)||115.9|
|9||Maciej Kot (POL)||115.4|
|10||Jakub Janda (CZE)||113.6|
*Click here to view complete results via Sochi2014.com.
Ten competitors pre-qualified for the final, including 41-year-old Japanese veteran Noriaki Kasai, who is competing in his record-tying seventh Winter Games. However, Kasai doesn't project to contend for a medal this weekend. He earned silver in the team large hill at the 1994 Winter Games but has never finished better than fifth at the Olympics in the individual competition. He finished eighth in Vancouver.
Kasai didn't jump on Friday, wisely opting to save his body for Saturday's medal stage.
Nick Fairall was one of three Americans to qualify for Saturday's final. But as Ferraro points out, it didn't come easy:
Fairall, who covered 120 meters, would receive just 47.5 points from the judges.
American Anders Johnson also qualified for the final. The 24-year-old struggled in the normal hill competition last weekend but has maintained high spirits, per Nordic.USSkiTeam.com:
My jumping is a little inconsistent right now, and I was just a little off on that jump. It definitely wasn’t the best jump I’ve had so far, but it’s alright. It’s still fun. Being in the final was what I was hoping for to start off the Games. I didn’t have a very good prep into the Games. I kind of was hurt a little bit the week leading in, so I was pretty happy just to be able to come and jump. Everything else was pretty much a bonus.
Nicholas Alexander is the third American who will be looking to crack the podium on Saturday. The 25-year-old scored the best jump of any Team USA member on Friday and will be aiming to improve on his performance in his second run on the large hill.
Peter Frenette was the lone American to be eliminated on Friday. Although he's only 21, the result is awfully disappointing considering he finished 32nd in the individual large hill as a teenager in Vancouver.
The men's large hill ski jumping competition will pick back up on Saturday at 9:30 p.m. local time (12:30 p.m. ET, with the final scheduled for 10:35 p.m. local time, 1:35 p.m. ET).
Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter.