Johannes Rydzek makes it a triple at Holmenkollen
It's always special to compete at Holmenkollen, Oslo and with the Norwegian King in attendance and the King's Cup as a special token to be taken home by the winner, the stakes were high in this second-but-last Individual Gundersen competition of the winter 2013/14. The lucky athlete to finally take home the trophy was Johannes Rydzek who crossed the finish line first once more, 0.6 seconds before his closest adversary, Magnus Moan from Norway. The bronze place on the podium was taken up by France's Francois Braud who finished 4.5 seconds after the winner and took his first individual podium place ever. Finland's Ilkka Herola finished as a strong fourth, also the best result of his career.
In the ski jumping part, Francois Braud took his second ski jumping win of the season after his success in Lillehammer at the beginning of December. With 125.5 metres, Braud bested Lahti and Trondheim-winner Rydzek in the ski jumping part who shared an intermediate second rank with Finland's Ilkka Herola. Rydzek jumped 127 metres and Herola 124.5 which both gave them 114.7 points. Only 0.1 points behind was Russian ski jumping sensation Evgeniy Klimov, so the three athletes went out on the cross-country track together, 12 seconds after Braud.
Like in Trondheim, Thomas Kjelbotn was the strongest Norwegian jumper. On rank five he took the honours away from older teammate Haavard Klemetsen who ranked sixth and with only 14 seconds of time behind, Kjelbotn joined the first leading group of the race. Intermediate ranks seven, eight and nine were in Austrian hand with Seidl, Denifl and Fritz starting with time disadvantages of 24, 29 and 30 seconds respectively.
In a good position to strike was local hero and strong skier Magnus Moan who jumped 126 metres which meant only 36 seconds of time disadvantage for Moan. Overall World Cup winner Eric Frenzel surprisingly had a weaker jump after his PCR win yesterday and ranked only 20th at half-time but with 54 seconds of time behind still within one minute of the leader. With 1:17 of time behind also on the to watch list was lightning fast skier Taylor Fletcher who had a good jump of 113 metres after a long time of not being able to qualify for the competitions. In the end, both Frenzel and Fletcher could not improve much and ended up at 14th and 22nd.
In the race, the three first skiers Rydzek, Braud and Herola actually stayed together for the whole time and managed not only to shake pursuers Klimov and Kjelbotn fast but also to keep all following athletes except for Magnus Moan at bay. Moan who skied the second-fastest time of the day in difficult deep conditions on the track caught up with the three leaders in the second part of the race and fought with strong finisher Johannes Rydzek in a finish line sprint in which the German once more had the better end. A beaming Francois Braud took the first podium of his career by beating out Ilkka Herola who had skied a remarkably strong race but did not have anything left in the end to take the podium away from Braud. Still Herola put Finland back on the map of Nordic Combined, giving the country the best finish since Janne Ryynänen's fifth place in Kuusamo in 2011.
Olympic Champion Joergen Graabak skied into a final fifth rank, followed by Akito Watabe whose style of skiing and small and light figure is well suited to these kinds of conditions, allowing Watabe to set the fastest time of the day with 24:05.8. Austria's Sepp Schneider claimed the best result of his career with his seventh place and was followed by teammates Klapfer and Gruber on ranks eight and nine, making Austria into the strongest team of the day. Fabian Riessle rounded out the Top Ten.