Eric Frenzel takes first Nordic Combined gold
A few metres before he reached the finish line, Eric Frenzle realised he had won Olympic gold and raised his arms in triumph. In reality, his victory in the Gundersen event from the normal hill was never in doubt.
Frenzel mastered both aspects of Nordic Combined by winning the ski jumping phase and executing his cross country strategy perfectly, trading the lead throughout the race with silver medallist Akito Watabe before taking control in the final stretch to win by 4.2 seconds.
"It's so amazing, I can't describe this feeling, it's so perfect," said Frenzel, who added the Olympic NH/10km title to his 2011 World Championship gold medal in the same event. Watabe got silver while Magnus Krog emerged as the last man standing out of a large chasing pack to win bronze, almost 4 seconds further back.
"I was working together with Frenzel to escape from the big group and we did it," Watabe said. "I tried [to overtake], but Eric is better than me and I was a bit tired."
Frenzel's victory was almost assured after he won the ski jumping phase earlier Wednesday with a jump of 103m, leaving only Watabe, who jumped 100.5m, within 27 seconds of him at the start of the cross country race. The top two athletes in the World Cup standings then worked together for most of the four laps of the 2.5km cross country track to prevent a large group of skiers behind them from gaining too much ground.
While Frenzel and Watabeonly skied the 10th and 12th fastest cross country legs, this was enough to hold off the rest of the field. Magnus Moan who started 48 seconds behind Frenzel, quickly caught the main chasing pack and took charge of the pursuit of the German and Watabe, narrowing the gap to 19 seconds after 4km.
But the pack could not catch the leaders and Moan ran out of steam in the final lap to finish fifth behind Krog and Italy's Alessandro Pittin who had both started the cross country race more than a minute behind Frenzel.
Pittin was the fastest skier on the cross country course, completing the 10km race in 22:47.5, but he fell 1.2 seconds short of matching his Vancouver 2010 bronze medal in this event. Krog was the second fastest on the course after finishing 20th in the ski jumping phase.
"It's unreal, you can't understand," Krog said. "A medal in the Olympic Games is such a big thing. I struggle in the hill, so to do such a big jump was so amazing."
Defending champion Jason Lamy Chappuis was well placed in the chasing pack in the first half of the race but finished 35th, more than 2:30 behind Frenzel.