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NRS-Import

Prevc undeterred by blackout at Oberstdorf qualifying

The two ski jumpers pegged as the favorites go into the first event of the Four Hills tournament having qualified in first and second place. A power outage delayed the proceedings in Oberstdorf.

World Cup standings' leader Peter Prevc was well ahead of the rest on Monday evening, producing a best jump of 136.5 meters to earn 159.2 points to finish first in qualifying for Tuesday's first event of the 64th edition of the Four Hills tournament.

"The first day went pretty well for me," the Slovenian said afterwards. "Every jump counts and there are a lot of favorites out there. I feel pressure, but that helps me to concentrate."

Severin Freund, who is hoping to give Germany its first overall tournament win since 2002,

finished second, with a jump of 134.5 meters (153 points).

"That was a good start, as always, I enjoyed it a great deal," Freund said.

Another of Germany's best jumpers, Richard Freitag, had a less-than-impressive qualifying, finishing in 14th place.

"The blackout distracted me somewhat," Freitag conceded afterwards. "Maybe because of that I wasn't as loose," he added.

The power outage that Freitag referred to came two hours before qualifying was scheduled to begin and affected the entire town of Oberstdorf. The jumpers and the 13,500 spectators - a record for qualiying - bided their time and shortly before it was to start, the power gradually returned to the town and the floodlights lit up the course, allowing qualifying to start just minutes behind schedule.

No winter wonderland

The course itself is covered with snow and ice, but everywhere else around Oberstdorf there is nothing to be seen but brownish-green grass due to one of the mildest Decembers in central Europe in years.

Walter Hofer, race director for ski-jumping the FIS, the sport's governing body insisted though, that the warm weather would not affect the course.

"We prepare the hills with artificial snow only, for safety reasons because a hard piste is better for the athletes. Real snow doesn't help here," Hofer said.

"We can prepare a hill in above zero temperatures for 10-15 days because we can produce 400 cubic meters of snow per day."

German coach Werner Schuster added that if that failed, "we could even land on mats" like in the summer series.

pfd/ (SID, dpa)

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