By Duncan Mackay in Vancouver

February 13 - Switzerland's Simon Ammann produced a giant final-round jump of 108 metres to claim the first gold medal of the 2010 Olympics here in the men's hill ski jumping competition.

Poland's Adam Malysz took the silver and Austria's Gregor Schlierenzauer claimed the bronze medal at Whistler Olympic Park.

Ammann, whose winning points total was 276.5, had led after the first round of jumps and was last to go in the final round.

But the 28-year-old, a student of information technology and electrical engineering at ETH Zurich, held his nerve brilliantly to produce the biggest jump of the competition and secure gold.

In 2002 he had won both the normal and long hill events in Salt Lake City, becoming only the second person ever to do so, which led to him becoming briefly a star in the United States, including appearing on the David Letterman show, partly because it was claimed he looked like Harry Potter.

His career went into decline, however, and he could do no better than 15th at the Turin Olympics four years ago.

Ammann said: "It's my third gold medal.

"This is insane.

"I have no words to describe the situation.

"It's crazy, I tried so hard and I focused so much on my competitions here."

Coming into the Games, Ammann was far from the favourite to win.

That tag belonged to 20-year-old Schlierenzauer, who has wowed the ski jumping world with an impressive string of victories, winning 32 World Cup podium places.

Malysz had taken the lead with only two jumpers remaining.

His leap of 105m was less than Schlierenzauer's earlier jump of 106.5m but the judges marks took Malysz into the lead with a points total of 269.5.

Schlierenauer's final-round jump gave him a points total of 268.

Ammann will go after the second double gold medal performance of his career when the large hill event is contested on February 20.

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