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Gottwald peaks at right time in Nordic combined

Felix Gottwald was no newcomer to the Olympic Winter Games. He had competed in 1994 and 1998 without winning a medal, although his Austrian team had come fourth in Nagano.


The Austrian's improvement was notable, though. In 2001, he topped the world cup standings and started to be talked about as a top-class athlete. A year later came a reward, when his third Games, in Salt Lake City, resulted in an Olympic medal at last, with bronzes in the team, individual and sprint events.

Suddenly Gottwald was a serial medallist and, as he arrived in Italy, he was among the favourites. He had proved himself to have the confidence and skill to be a medallist – the question was whether he could add a gold to his name.

Once again Gottwald was entered into three events – the team, sprint and individual. And once again, he came home with three medals. But this time, the colours were different.

In the individual, Germany's Ronny Ackermann came in as favourite, but had a wretched time, blighted by poor jumps, and finished only 18th. Instead, another German, Georg Hettich, took gold, with Gottwald taking silver – an impressive results after starting the cross-country in just 11th position.

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The gold medal was just around the corner, though. It came in the team event, where Gottwald and his Austrian teammates beat close rivals Germany in the closing stages. The Germans, led by Hettich, had been top of the standings after the jump, but proved no match for the Austrians' speed in the cross-country relay.

Attention now switched to the sprint event. Ackermann had been expected to do well, but his poor Olympic form took hold again and he was again destined to finish well out of the medal positions.

Hettich, by contrast, maintained his strong run. Just as he had in the individual, he led after the jumping and this time Gottwald was 12th going into the cross-country leg. Yet this was destined to be his day.

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He was the fastest of all the athletes over the 7.5km sprint, eventually finishing more than five seconds clear of Norway's Magnus Moan, who took silver, and Hettich, who added a bronze to his individual gold.

Gottwald retired in 2007, only to return to win another team gold in the 2010 Vancouver Games.

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