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Women ski jumpers ready to make history

ROZA KHUTOR, Russia -- The world's best ski jumpers take to the skies for gold in Sochi with women set to make history in their first ever Olympic appearance and Austria facing pressure in the men's events.

Training at the brand new Russki Gorki jumping center in the hills above Sochi starts on Thursday, one day before the Games opening ceremony. The men's qualification starts on Saturday and the women's competition on Tuesday.

Established stars and up-and-coming legends will try to write their names into the history book of their sport, which has been included in the program of all of the Olympics since the very first Winter Games took place at Chamonix, France in 1924.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) installed the women's event to the program for the 2014 Olympic Games after growing pressure from female ski-jumpers for inclusion into the Games, ending ski jumping's status as one of few men-only disciplines.

Japanese ski jumping superstar Sara Takanashi, who is considered to be a red-hot favorite of the Games, confirmed her star status by making it two wins from two World Cup events in the Austrian resort of Hinzenbach in the run-up to the Games.

With this win the 17-year-old, who also won her fourth successive world junior title earlier this month, has further strengthened her tag as favorite heading into the Winter Olympics.

Japan failed to win any gold medals at the Vancouver Olympics so country's expectations are focused on the high-school student Takanashi.

“I want to lead the way ... I want to start the competitions as soon as possible,” Takanashi told journalists after arriving in Sochi ahead of the competition.

“Of course I hope I will get a gold medal. But before I get one I will have to work hard and there are a lot of things I have to do for that.”

She said it would be the third time that she has competed on the Sochi hill after finishing second and third in two competitions in 2012.

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Daniela Kotschova, of Slovakia, skis in front of Olympic rings as she trains at Laura Cross-country Ski & Biathlon Center of the 2014 Winter Olympics, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia on Sunday, Feb. 2. (AP)

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