Ski jumpers 'really sad' at Covid-hit Kramer's Beijing absence
Ski jumper Marita Kramer's virus-enforced absence from the Beijing Olympics is "really sad", her rivals said Thursday, but blows the field wide open with the favourite ruled out.
Austria's Kramer, who has won six World Cup events this season, was the red-hot tip to win Olympic gold until she was forced to withdraw on Tuesday after testing positive for Covid-19.
Japan's Sara Takanashi is now fancied for the title after landing three jumps of 100 metres or over in Thursday's practice.
But Takanashi said it "would have meant something" to compete against Kramer at the Games, which open Friday, and that she "really wanted to go up against her".
"It's really sad that she can't be here to compete," said Takanashi, who recorded the biggest jump in practice of 104.00 metres.
"I'm here to take part in the competition and I'm really sorry that she's not here too."
Takanashi added that it would have been "a really high-level competition" with Kramer involved and that she was "looking forward to jumping against her again".
Instead her main rivals for the title are likely to be Slovenian trio Ursa Bogataj, Ema Klinec and Nika Kriznar, and Germany's Katharina Althaus, who all impressed in practice.
"It's colder than usual but we have jumped in these temperatures in competitions so it's OK," Althaus said at Zhangjiakou National Ski Jumping Centre.
"I know when I am jumping very good and everything goes fine, I can be on the podium."
Defending champion Maren Lundby of Norway will also not compete in Beijing after deciding to prioritise her mental and physical health.
Slovenia's Spela Rogelj said Lundby and Kramer's absence has opened up the field for everyone else.
"Every time is the same -- three chances for a medal, forty competitors on the start," she said.
"It's a really bad situation for Marita, also for Maren, but that's how it is. Tomorrow can be somebody else."