WHISTLER, British Columbia — The Austrians were so far ahead of the field in the Olympic team ski jump that the only drama was how far 20-year-old Gregor Schlierenzauer would fly off the large hill.
His teammates, practically celebrating their gold medal as they awaited the final jump of the Vancouver Olympics, took bets.
Fans and competitors did, too.
Surely, he'll go for it. But how far can he go?
"I said about 144 meters long," recalled Austria's Wolfgang Loitzl.
Schlierenzauer, already a double-bronze winner at these games, sat on the gate on a sun-splashed Monday, took a few breaths and pushed off down the ramp, thrusting himself into the air with the biggest jump of his life.
The crowd at Olympic Whistler Park gasped as he touched down 146.5 meters later, then squatted and put out his left hand to steady himself, but never touching the snow.
And after he zoomed into the finish area to celebrate Austria's triumph with his teammates, he played to the TV camera, acting like he was slicking back his brown locks over his silver and blue helmet.
"It is a perfect feeling to be on such a strong team," Schlierenzauer said. "To be an Olympic champion is amazing."
And Schlierenzauer's amazing jump put the finishing touches on the Austrians' second straight Olympic gold medal.
Austria defended its title from the Turin Games with 1,107.9 points. Germany won a distant silver with 1,035.8 points, and Norway took bronze with 1,030.3 points.
Simon Ammann, the Swiss ace who won the gold in both the normal and large hill individual competitions, sat out because Switzerland didn't have four jumpers to field a team. With the World Cup leader out, Austria's four jumpers — Schlierenzauer, Morgenstern, Andreas Kofler and Loitzl — were the four highest-ranked athletes in the field.
"We do not have so much pressure," said Loitzl, who started things off with a nice, 138-meter jump. "We know we have the strongest team, so we knew what to do."
Kofler and Morgenstern also were on the team that won gold in Turin, and Loitzl was on the 2002 team that took fourth in Salt Lake City.
But the star of this show was Schlierenzauer.
"For me it is extreme fun to jump in the team," Schlierenzauer said. "Our cohesion within the team is fantastic. In individual competition you have to give your best, but in the team even more."
And he sure did, adding a gold to the bronze medals he won in both the individual jumps.
Austria's dominance left the other nations in a race for second place.
"Taking second was pretty much the maximum we could think of," German Martin Schmitt said.
And so the Germans considered themselves victors.
"We think this is quite sensational to win silver," proclaimed Andreas Wank.
The Norwegians couldn't have been happier, either.
"I can't complain," said Norway's Tom Hilde with a big smile.
The other members of the German team were Michael Neumayer and Michael Uhrmann, and the other Norwegians were Anders Bardal, Johan Remen Evensen and Anders Jacobsen.
Finland finished in fourth with 1,014.6 points.
This is the first time since 1994 in Lillehammer, Norway, that the Finnish didn't win an Olympic medal in ski jumping. Their top jumper, Janne Ahonen, withdrew from the team event Saturday because of a knee injury.
The American ski jumping team of Anderson Johnson (Park City, Utah), Peter Frenette (Saranac Lake, N.Y.), Taylor Fletcher (Steamboat Springs, Colo.) and Nick Alexander (Lebanon, N.H.) placed 11th in the 12-team field and failed to advance to the eight-team final round.
After winning another gold medal to go with the two he won in Turin, Thomas Morgenstern said the Austrians, three-time defending world champs in this event, all had their best jumps of these games on the final day of competition, which were made off the large hill.
But he couldn't say why. Maybe because they were the best, the prohibitive favorite.
Or maybe it's because Ammann was absent.
Austria's coach, Alexander Pointner, had lodged a complaint about Ammann's innovative ski bindings, a fuss that seemed to distract his jumpers before the International Ski Federation ruled the equipment was legal.
Pointner called the games a success despite the controversy because Austria had never before won medals in all three Olympic jumps: "While each medal is nice, this one had a special story beforehand," he said. "In turbulent times, we all stuck together."
Despite FIS's ruling here, Alexander predicted the bindings, which the Austrians tried in 2008 but ditched because of safety concerns, would be disallowed after this season.
"Simon Ammann is the best jumper in the world, and he can handle it," Pointner said. "It's too dangerous — not for us, but for a lot of kids coming up because they do the same, everybody wants to try it. Now, the situation is different, the jury decided it's allowed. But I think they will stop it after the season."