- POSTED: 07 Feb 2014 23:52
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Austria ski jumping champion Thomas Morgenstern says his third Winter Olympics will be an emotional affair, a month after a horror crash left him injured.
ROSA KHUTOR, Russia: The 2014 Winter Olympics will be far more emotional despite being his third, Austrian ski jumping champion Thomas Morgenstern said on Friday, a month after a horror crash left him injured and uncertain of travelling to Sochi.
"It definitely put things into perspective," the 27-year-old told journalists ahead of Saturday's qualifying round and Sunday's competition.
"It's very emotional. I'm really happy to be here, and the potential for a medal is still slumbering in me, it's there. But it's not the biggest priority," said the three-time Olympic gold-medallist.
Morgenstern shocked the ski jumping world on January 10 when he lost his balance in mid-air and crashed heavily during the ski flying qualifying round in Tauplitz, Austria.
The spectacular accident occurred just a month after another crash in Titisee-Neustadt, Germany, that left him unconscious in the finish area, with serious bruising and a broken finger.
"Of course I'm not at 100 per cent... my strength has dropped, but I've been able to build it up again," Morgenstern said Friday, his face still bearing traces of bruises from his crash.
Despite suffering skull and lung injuries in Tauplitz, Morgenstern was named in the Olympic team barely out of hospital.
Between his two crashes, he even managed to finish second in the prestigious Four Hills tournament, just behind Austria's new wonderboy, Thomas Diethart.
Morgenstern sat out Friday's training run at Rosa Khutor to allow his body to recuperate more but was satisfied with his performance in training on Thursday.
"I had a good feeling yesterday, it got better from jump to jump and I gained in confidence."
It was the return among his peers that was more difficult.
"Everybody was coming up to me and hugged me and congratulated me. There were very beautiful moments, it was very special. But it was very hard for me, on my strength and mood."
Coach Alexander Pointner, who has overseen a successful run by the Austrians in recent seasons, did not hide his pleasure at having one of his biggest stars back on the team.
"Emotionally I'm most happy that Thomas is back in our ski jumping family. It didn't just affect our team but the entire ski jumping family.
"I think we're all very happy that a great athlete like Thomas is again with us."
With Diethart, record World Cup winner Gregor Schlierenzauer, Andreas Kofler and newcomer Michael Hayboeck, Austria has a raft of medal contenders in its team.
But Morgenstern was still keen to put on his best performance on the normal hill.
"For me it's very important that I'm well recuperated on Sunday, in good shape, well prepared and can compete in the event.
Still, the pressure is off.
"I have three golds at home so I don't have to break my back, I know it can just happen," said the Austrian, who won individual gold in Turin and team gold in 2006 and 2010.
"I'm very relaxed. It's Olympic Games of course, it's something that pushes you and demands the highest performance."
But he added: "I've reached my goal just by being here."