Nordic combined: Frenzel achieves career high, as Graabak springs a major surprise
The RusSki Gorki Jumping Centre played host to three thrilling competitions in the Nordic combined. The normal hill/10km event went to form as world number one Eric Frenzel claimed gold, while in the individual competition on the large hill, Jørgen Graabak produced a major upset to claim the title, before winning another gold two days later as part of the victorious Norwegian quartet in the team event.
12 February 2014: Frenzel achieves new career pinnacle with individual gold on the normal hill
Germany's Eric Frenzel showed just why he is the current world number one, storming to Olympic gold in the individual Gundersen normal hill/10km at the RusSki Gorki Jumping Centre. Starting first after winning the morning's ski jumping on the normal hill, the German, who won a team bronze at Vancouver 2010, took the lead in the 10km cross country ski phase, with Akito Watabe (JPN) providing the main challenge.
Frenzel finished in 23min 50.2sec, 4.2 seconds ahead of Watabe, whose silver was the first Nordic combined medal by a Japanese athlete in 20 years. Magnus Krog (NOR) took bronze in 23 seconds 58.3 minutes. “It feels so amazing, it is so incredible, there are no words to describe it,” said Frenzel. “It is the biggest moment of my life.”
Meanwhile, the 2010 champion Jason Lamy Chapuis of France, who was very much expected to be in the mix for the medals, struggled for tempo and came in 35th. “Right from the start my legs were not working well, the glide was not good, it was a nightmare,” said the Frenchman.
18 February 2014: Norwegian duo find gold and silver linings on the large hill
Norwegian pair Jørgen Graabak and Magnus Moan dominated the podium in the Gundersen large hill/10km event, taking gold and silver respectively. Graabak completed the ski phase in 23 minutes 27.5 seconds, 0.6 seconds ahead of compatriot Moan, as Germany’s Fabian Riessle took bronze.
Riessle’s fellow German, Eric Frenzel, who won gold on the normal hill, led the field after the ski jump phase to earn pole position for the decisive cross-country ski, which took the form of a first-past-the-post pursuit. However he could not maintain the pace, and slipped back to finish 10th overall, as the Norwegians relentlessly closed the gap to move into the lead.
Both jumping and skiing phases took place in overcast conditions that the Norwegians said reminded them of their home base. “We're a bit used to this kind of weather in Trondheim - rain, a bit grey,” explained Graabak. “We were discussing this on the way to the arena, saying that it was a bit like home, and I guess we took advantage of that,” he added.
Moan expanded on the topic: “Trondheim is on the coast in Norway and we are used to training in a lot of rain, so this was like a little bonus for us.” And the silver medallist expressed great satisfaction with the quality of the ski jump and the cross-country skiing tracks at the RusSki Gorki Jumping Centre. “Big respect to the organisation that made this possible,” he said. “It was fun to jump and ski today.”
20 February 2014: Smash-and-Graab as Norwegians swipe Austria’s team relay crown
Norway beat Germany by a fraction of a second in a thrilling final sprint to earn gold in the Nordic combined team relay at the RusSki Gorki Jumping Centre. Norway’s quartet of Magnus Moan, Haavard Klemetsen, Magnus Krog and Jörgen Graabak finished in 47 minutes 13.5 seconds, while Germany (Eric Frenzel, Björn Kircheisen, Johannes Rydzek, Fabian Riessle) finished just 0.3 seconds slower to take silver. Vancouver 2010 champions Austria (Lukas Klaper, Christoph Bieler, Mario Stecher and Bernhard Gruber) cruised home unchallenged to claim the bronze.
Despite their general prowess in the cross-country events, the triumph was Norway’s first in the Nordic combined relay since Nagano 1998. It also capped a glorious Winter Games for Graabak, who had won the large hill individual competition two days earlier.
The initial ski jumping phase of the two-sport discipline saw Norway, Germany and holders Austria emerge from the field, and the three teams then engaged in a fascinating tussle for the podium spots in the decisive 4x5km cross country ski race.
It was German pair Kircheisen and Rydzek who stood out during the ski jumping, each managing to produce leaps of over 130m to put their team in pole position going into the second part of the competition. Meanwhile, the Austrians, who had maintained a firm grip on the title since Turin 2006, were not far behind, thanks in large measure to a massive jump of 133m from Bieler.
In accordance with the Gundersen scoring system applied in Nordic combined, the Germans went into the ski relay with a seven-second advantage over the Austrians, and 25 seconds on the third-placed Norwegians.
At this stage the French were still in touching distance 10 seconds back, but the rest of the field was already over a minute off the pace and out of the frame. With each member of the relay teams tasked with completing a 5km ski leg, the three front-runners were locked together after the first kilometre, setting up a fascinating denouement.
Going into the final leg, Norway’s anchor Graabak had to strain every sinew to build on the fine work of his three team-mates. Somehow he managed to overhaul Germany’s Riessle in a final push for the line to win by just three tenths of a second. “I came here as a substitute, and now I have two gold medals. It’s extraordinary,” said an incredulous Graabak. “Winning the large hill event was fantastic, but this is even better, as I’m on top of the podium with my friends and team-mates,” he added.