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Solid performances on the hill and on the skis earned Germany’s Tim Kopp a deserved gold in the individual Nordic combined, while Russia won the first ever Olympic mixed team NH/3x3.3km competition.
Turning 17 just five days before the individual Nordic combined competition, Germany’s Tim Kopp celebrated in style on the Lysgardsbakken, soaring out to 99.5m to earn himself a useful eight-second lead over the USA’s Ben Loomis ahead of the 5km cross-country race at the Birkebeineren Ski Stadium.
Joining the front two in the battle for the medals was Czech Republic’s Andrej Pazout, who was 19 seconds off the pace after his jump, with France’s Lilian Vaxelaire a further 25 seconds further back in fourth.
The front three fought out on exciting duel, with Tim leading the way and Ben and Andrej giving dogged pursuit and eventually closing the gap on the frontrunner. Tim had left something in reserve, however, and made a decisive spurt on the climb on the final lap, pulling away from his pursuers to stop the clock at 13:31.4, with the American trailing in 5.2 seconds behind and the Czech 7.9.
“It was crazy,” said Tim after his win. “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.”
He added: “This is what makes Nordic combined great. I’m feeling so thankful for everyone who made this happen: my coach, my friends and my family. Next, I’m going to the junior world championships. Maybe in some years you’ll see me at the real Olympics. That is my goal.”
The Nordic combined mixed team NH/3x3.3km competition made its Olympic debut at Lillehammer 2016, with 11 teams of five athletes (one female ski jumper, one male ski jumper, one male Nordic combined athlete, one female cross-country skier and one male cross-country skier) going head to head in an event that began with a round of ski jumping and concluded with a 3x3.3km cross-country skiing relay race.
A Slovenia team comprising Nordic combined specialist Vid Vrhovnic took a clear lead in the ski jumping round, which ended with Russia lying fourth overall.
Formed by ladies’ ski jumping silver medallist Sofia Tikhonova, Vitalii Ivanov (Nordic combined), Maksim Sergeev (ski jumping), Igor Fedotov (cross-country) and Maya Yakunina (cross-country), the Russian team bounced back in the cross-country relay, however, with anchorman Fedotov crossing the line fully 21 seconds clear of Norway’s Vebjörn Hegdal to clinch the gold. Taking bronze behind the Norwegians were Germany.
“I want to thank my teammates for their performance,” said a jubilant Vitalii afterwards. “The team is very important to me, because we all put in our own effort. We are very happy to be one team and to represent Russia here in Lillehammer.”