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German athlete Tim Kopp took the lead after the jumping competition and made the most of his early advantage as he skied to victory.
A strong performance on the ski jump at Lysgardsbakken was key to success in the Nordic combined competition at the 2016 YOG. Tim Kopp of Germany, who celebrated his seventeenth birthday in Lillehammer last week, took note of this and jumped an impressive 99.5m in the morning to take the lead going into the cross-country section of the competition.
For the afternoon’s 5km cross-country race at the Birkebeineren stadium athletes were set off using the Gundersen method, staggered interval starts calculated according to the morning’s results. This gave Kopp an eight second advantage over second-placed Ben Loomis (USA) and 19 seconds over Czech athlete Andrej Pazout in third.
The three competitors looked almost certain to retain podium positions, with fourth-placed Lilian Vaxelaire of France starting a full 44 seconds back from the leader.
Afterwards, the athletes expressed their enthusiasm for their unusual sport. Ben Loomis explained, “I love the combination! There is no other sport like it. Doing the jump first, then starting with staggered times makes the racing really exciting.”
Kopp stayed at the front for the duration of the race thanks to the advantage earnt on the jumping hill in the morning, while Loomis and Pazout also managed to bridge the gap up to him. This guaranteed an exciting battle for the finish as the three skiers stayed tightly packed together at the front of the field right until the last lap of the stadium, when the German put in a burst of speed that the other two couldn’t match. He raised his arms in celebration as he crossed the line first in a time of 13:31.4. Loomis held on to second, coming in 5.2 seconds back, while Pazout rounded out the podium another 2.7 seconds behind the American.
“It was crazy,” said Tim Kopp after his victory. “The race was awesome. I thought ‘this is going to be close’ but then I felt strong on the last round and pushed it all out. The jump was just perfect and being first at the start of the race helped me. It made me more relaxed.”
“This is what makes Nordic combined great!” he continued. “I’m feeling so thankful for everyone who made this happen: my coach, my friends and my family. Now I’m going to the World Junior Championships. Maybe in some years you’ll see me at the ‘real’ Olympics. That’s my goal.”