Akito Watabe returns to the top of the podium
After the competition program had to be changed due to the difficult wind conditions on Lugnet's hill today, Akito Watabe claimed the last individual win of the winter and stood on top of the podium for the first time this season. After a strong race, he crossed the finish line 4.9 seconds ahead of Joergen Graabak from Norway who claimed the silver rank like in his first race of the winter in Kuusamo. The third place went to Alessandro Pittin from Italy who finished 6.8 seconds after the winner and returned to the individual podium after a absence of about two years.
Due to the conditions with strong and changing winds, yesterday's PCR had to be used and the Individual Gundersen competition was held today instead of tomorrow as planned. The PCR victory had gone to Germany's superstar Eric Frenzel yesterday, who beat out Olympic silver medallist Akito Watabe and Norwegian rising jumping star Thomas Kjelbotn for the pole position in the race. The overall World Cup winner of the season 2013/14 gave his competitors no chance once more and won the Provisional Competition Round with a new hill record of 99.5 metres.
For the race, this meant a head start of only 2 seconds for Frenzel on Watabe and seven seconds on Kjelbotn and also the other field followed quite closely with 27 starters within one minute. Jason Lamy Chappuis was back among the top jumpers on rank five and with 18 seconds of time behind, he went out on the track together with Austrian Willi Denifl who came in as fourth, 14 seconds behind Frenzel. Serial winner Johannes Rydzek was starting from a promising seventh rank, 21 seconds behind his teammate Frenzel, the same starting time as Bernhard Gruber on rank eight. In terms of the strong skiers, a fast group consisting of Magnus Moan, Alessandro Pittin and Joergen Graabak had time disadvantages of 44, 46 and 49 seconds respectively.
In the race, Watabe and Frenzel skied together at the beginning but the Japanese looked strong and in control from the beginning. Skiing confidently, he left Frenzel behind in the course of the race who was then in turn overtaken by the group of strong pursuers Pittin, Graabak and Rydzek. Magnus Moan had a crash about half-way through the race and couldn't hold onto the top pursuers anymore and ended up tenth. In the pursuing group, the fight was on between Pittin and Graabak in the end with Graabak having the stronger finish.
Behind the podium, a tired Eric Frenzel held onto a fourth rank, Jason Lamy Chappuis grabbed rank five and his teammate Francois Braud skied to rank six with a strong third-fastest time of the day. With Armin Bauer, a second Italian entered the Top Ten on rank nine, one of the best results of his career so far. Rydzek and Gruber took positions seven and eight.
The final standing in the overall were Frenzel winning with 1031 points, Rydzek on rank two with 779 and Watabe on three with 730. Tomorrow one last Team Event is scheduled before the season 2013/14 is officially over.