PARK CITY, Utah Alan Alborn didn't land where he was hoping to Wednesday. He didn't even land where he had to in order to challenge the world's best K120 ski jumpers.
The Anchorage, Ala., native, who was fourth among qualifiers heading into Wednesday's competition at Utah Olympic Park, placed 34th in the first of two trials and failed to reach the finals at the 2002 Winter Olympics.
On his only attempt of the morning, he jumped 115.5 meters and received a score of 105.4 in a formula that combines style and distance. That left him 35 points behind eventual gold-medalist Simon Ammann, who posted the highest score of the first round, and 3.1 points out of a spot in the finals, as 30 of the 50 contestants advanced.
Clint Jones, the only other American in the field, finished 42nd in the first round with a score of 94.4 and also sat out the finals.
"It just wasn't my day,'' said Alborn. "It was a bad jump I guess. Everything else was there.
"I guess I didn't want it bad enough and I couldn't put it together. I'm disappointed, but there's nothing I can do about it now.''
Although circumstantial influence alone might not have been enough to keep Alborn from for the medal he openly spoke about contending for in Salt Lake City, he did seem to be a victim of changing conditions Wednesday.
Early in the first round, competitors faced a significant tailwind, which subsided by the time half of the field had made their first attempts. That coincided with the finest jumpers reaching the top of the ramp, which resulted in some of the day's best distances.
Ammann, of Switzwerland, nailed 132.5 meters, while silver medalist Adam Malysz, of Poland, reached 131. Matti Hautamaeki, of Finland earned the bronze largely on style points after jumps of 127 and 125.5 meters.
But, by the time Alborn, the 34th of 50 jumpers in the first round, had moved into position, the invisible obstacle had returned.
"Way too much tail wind,'' said Alborn, clearly disappointed after his jump. "With that kind of wind, you lose a quarter of your lift.''
Wednesday, Alborn lost the chance to win America's first ski-jumping medal in nearly eight decades.
No U.S. ski jumper had placed in the top 25 during the previous two Olympics, but Alborn was openly optimistic after a strong showing in qualifying Tuesday. He set an ambitious goal for himself, to become America's first decorated ski jumper since 1924.
"I want to be a medallist,'' he said after jumping 119.5 meters in qualifying Tuesday. "I have the physical attributes and the mental side of it. I just need to put it together.''
That possibility came apart before a supportive crowd at Utah Olympic Park.
As Alborn sat above the ramp, preparing to slide into his entry, the crowd cheered loudly enough to be heard at the top of the hill. The American flags that earlier had been used as shawls against the mountain chill, began waving throughout the crowd. One young boy near the front of the stands held up a hand-crafted sign that read "Alborn # 1!''
But after the American's disappointing performance, the fans quickly switched from trying to boost the home team to honoring the event's best talent.
"We were really hoping (Alborn) would be able to make the cut,'' said Tom Coleman, a fan from Sandy, Utah. "But he was unfortunate that he got hit with that wind. That probably took eight to 10 meters off his jump.
"You enjoy everyone's performance. Some of the athletes are just unbelievable. But you want to see Americans do well. It's kind of sad to have to so many of us here and not have an American in the finals.''
Unfortunately, that is also kind of normal for ski jumping.
Savannah Morning News sports columnist Tim Guidera is part of a Morris News Service team covering the 2002 Winter Olympics. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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