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Ski jumping-Austrian Morgenstern plays down chances after crash

Reuters

* Austrian makes first practice jumps since bad crash last month

* Morgenstern says he feels no pressure (Releads with quotes from Morgenstern)

By David Ljunggren

ROSA KHUTOR, Russia, Feb 6 (Reuters) - Austrian ski jumper Thomas Morgenstern already has three Olympic gold medals at home, and after a training accident left him hospitalised for a week in January his top priority now is getting through the Sochi Olympics unscathed.

After completing three practice jumps on Thursday, however, Morgenstern is not discounting the chances of a podium place.

"It's step by step. We went in every (practice) round and I was very satisfied ... I am in really good shape," he told reporters after the third jump.

His leaps on Thursday were the first serious jumps he had made since landing on his back and head after losing control in the air during a training session in Austria on Jan. 10.

He spent a week in hospital before moving to a rehabilitation clinic.

The 27-year-old, who won two Olympic titles in the individual and team large hill event in Turin in 2006 and a team large hill gold in Vancouver in 2010, said that while the accident had interrupted his preparation he still hoped to spring a surprise.

"My hope here is to get through the Games, to get back home safely and hopefully I can surprise in the competition as well," he added.

"I'm really looking forward to it and I at least know there is no pressure at the moment because of my fall ... I have a gold medal at home, it's great, it's nice to know, there's nothing to lose."

The accident was the second Morgenstern had suffered in less than a month.

He is still wearing a protective bandage on his left hand after he broke a finger and sustained facial cuts when he crashed after takeoff at a World Cup event in Germany on Dec. 15. (Reporting by David Ljunggren, editing by Ed Osmond/Mitch Phillips)

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