KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — Two weeks in hospital in January with a life-threatening illness, and an Olympic bronze medal less than a month later at the Sochi Games. It's been quite a turnaround for Japanese ski jumper Taku Takeuchi.
Takeuchi broke down moments after collecting his third-place medal with the rest of his Japanese teammates as he spoke of his fight against Churg-Strausse Syndrome, a disorder that causes his blood vessels to become inflamed.
"I thought I might even die," Takeuchi said. "But with support from my family, support from people at the hospital, so many different people helped me."
On Monday night, Takeuchi was far from his best, finishing fifth and seventh with his jumps. But as usual, 41-year-old veteran Noriaki Kasai helped the Japanese team, finishing third in all of his jumps to help them secure a medal.
Takeuchi credited Kasai with helping him away from the competition jumps, too.
"Even if he is not doing so well, he still gives us a lot of support," Takeuchi said. "He is really nice to us, really considerate to us and seeing that we feel really safe."
His parents were worried about Takeuchi's safety when he decided to pursue his dream of coming to Sochi, despite the illness. But Takeuchi had been jumping well this season — a win with the Japanese team on the normal hill at Lillehammer, Norway, where he also placed second individually. He was in 14th place in the World Cup standings.
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