Laitinen suffers practice fall

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The Independent Online

Mika Laitinen was badly injured in a fall during ski jumping practice in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, yesterday.

The Finn, who leads the World Cup standings after winning five of nine events so far this season, was taken to hospital after breaking his left collarbone and five ribs on his first practice jump for today's competition. He was able to get up after the fall, but walked very unsteadily and was suffering from concussion

Laitinen crashed after a jump of 97 metres, landing with a ski at the wrong angle. The ski binding worked loose and he lost the ski and his helmet, the ski hitting him on the head.

"Mika can't remember anything," the Finnish team's doctor, Antti Eskola, said. "I had to explain to him that we were in hospital." He will remain in hospital for several days for observation and is expected to be out of competition for at least two months.

On Saturday in Oberstdorf, Germany, Laitinen had jumped 121.5m, edging out the three-times Olympic champion Jens Weissflog, of Germany. The World Cup meet was the first stage of the Four Hills event comprising two classics each in the German and Austrian Alps.

Laitinen recorded jumps of 121.5 and 119m. Weissflog, who has said he will retire after this season, was 3.7 points behind. Japan's Masahiko Harada finished third, while Andreas Goldberger of Austria saw his hopes of retaining his World Cup title slip after reaching only 103.5m to finish 23rd.

Austria's Elfi Eder stayed on her skis to collect a third World Cup slalom victory of the season at Semmering.

Urged on by a partisan crowd, Eder finished with a two-run combined time of one min 40.70sec, giving the Austrian women their seventh victory of the season. Marianne Kjoerstad, of Norway, had to settle for second in 1:40.98 while Sweden's Kristina Andersson took third.