Norwegian nordic combined athletes win gold in the team competition

Espen Bjørnstad (NOR, Fischer skis, bindings and boots), Jan Schmid (NOR), Jørgen Graabak (NOR, Fischer skis and bindings) and Jarl Magnus Riiber (NOR, Fischer skis, bindings and boots) secured the last gold medal in Seefeld (AUT) for nordic combined. Silver went to Johannes Rydzek, Eric Frenzel (both GER, Fischer skis, bindings and boots), Fabian Rießle (GER) and Vinzenz Geiger (GER, Fischer skis, bindings and boots), bronze to Bernhard Gruber, Mario Seidl (both AUT, Fischer skis, bindings and boots), FJ Rehrl and Lukas Klapfer (both AUT).

Strong Austrians and Japanese led the field after the jump almost with the same points, in a fair jumping under good conditions. "Today it is nice to jump, with a slight headwind. I hope it stays that fair, because yesterday in ski jumping, that was a disaster", said Vinzenz Geiger. Changing wind conditions were still there with mostly headwind, but partly also wind from the side. "I threw down the gauntlet to the others. I had a good jump, good balnced and a good telemark", said Bernhard Gruber and his teammates Mario Seidl and FJ Rehrl surpassed him with 111.5 meters each. After a great jump from Akito Watabe (JPN, Fischer skis, bindings and boots), his brother Yoshito (JPN, Fischer skis, bindings and boots) finally brought the Japanese team within striking distance of Austria. Norway lost a few meters with Jørgen Graabak, but was slightly injured in a fall in training. The German team could not repeat the performance of the trial round and with every jump missed a few meters. Thus, the German quartet went with 41 seconds behind Austria and Japan in the cross country track, Norway was 17 seconds behind the duo.

Before cross-country skiing, it looked as if the Norwegians and Japanese were gambling with their line-up by sending a slow skier to the first leg, instead of shortening the gap to Austria and not letting Germany approach. As expected, Johannes Rydzek caught up quickly. But then he was completely exhausted, dropped back and didn't know the reason: "The first lap I felt very good and wanted to attack in the last half lap, but then I lost all my energies and I have still tried to keep the gap small for the other guys. It was my fault, my legs were absolutely dead." But the German team was still not beaten 25 seconds behind second and third place: Eric Frenzel started the race carefully and then gave everything on the way to the exchange. One minute behind at the first exchange changed into only eleven seconds behind Austria, together with the Norwegians: Within a few minutes everything turned, the race was open again. "It was important not to start the race too fast, it was very deep and therefore more exhausting than in the last few days. I had to find a good pace to work my way forward", Eric Frenzel said.

Now the rest was over for the Austrians, who were able to ski a lonely race on the first two laps of Bernhard Gruber and Mario Seidl. After the three medal candidates were together there was a lot of tactics in the race, but Japan could not use initially: Hideaki Nagai (JPN, Fischer skis, bindings and boots) had to wait long for a reserve pole and lost almost a minute. But at the final skiers there were always attempts to stop and the pace was so slow, because nobody wanted to replace Lukas Klapfer in the leadership work, so that Akito Watabe came up to 15 seconds. The Austrian finally set the pace in the penultimate climb followed by Riiber and Geiger. An attack by the German countered the Norwegian and was unstoppable. Vinzenz Geiger could not quite catch up with the gap from the downhill through his slower ski on the home stretch, although he came still very close. "I trained a bit more for speed before the season. Today I had my head and legs in the right place. I knew that I was always good at such situations, Northug and Klæbo did it and I learned from them", said Riiber. The Austrians won another bronze medal in front of their home crowd. Japanese Go Yamamoto, Yoshito Watabe, Hideaki Nagai and Akito Watabe (all JPN, Fischer skis, bindings and boots) took fourth place.

=> HS109/4x5km Seefeld (AUT)