Eric Frenzel of Germany survived a nail-biting last lap in the men’s Nordic combined individual at PyeongChang 2018 on Wednesday 14 February, as he successfully defended the Olympic title he won at Sochi 2014.
Akito Watabe of Japan, the pre-race favourite and form man of the 2017/18 World Cup season with five wins, came in 4.8 seconds behind to claim the silver, with Lukas Klapfer of Austria completing the podium.
Frenzel, who lay fifth after the ski jumping round at the Alpensia Ski Jumping Centre – one place behind Klapfer and two adrift of Watabe – turned on the power in the 10km race at the Alpensia Cross-Country Centre. The German made repeated attempts to break clear from the five-man leading group on the final lap, and finally did so with a powerful surge on the final hill to shake off the challenge of Watabe, Klapfer and Jarl Magnus Riiber of Norway, who took fourth place.
The hard-fought gold is the 29-year-old German’s fourth Olympic medal; he also won team silver in Sochi and team bronze at Vancouver 2010. Compatriot Johannes Rydzek, who took all four gold medals – a first in the sport – at the 2017 World Championships, finished fifth overall.
“It’s amazing. I feel really great,” said Frenzel. “It was quite a hard race. My goal on the last round was to push really hard in the last few metres and on the last uphill section. The only way to go was to get in front and to make my own race. I’m really, really happy with this victory today.”
I’m really happy to win the silver medal today. It’s a fantastic day,” commented runner-up Watabe. “The cross-country race was quite hard, and racing was difficult when chasing in the group. I was struggling a little leading the group, but I’m really satisfied with my race. I was trying to get the gold today, but Frenzel was a bit stronger than me. I did my best and it was a great fight.”
“It’s perfect,” said bronze-medallist Klapfer. “I’m 32 and it’s my first individual medal. It’s a great day and now I know the hard work was worth it. It’s the biggest thing in my life. The Olympic medal was always a childhood dream for me, so this is the biggest day in my career.”