Norway takes Gold in the team competition
It was deja vu for Joergen GRAABAK (NOR), only this time it felt even better. For the second time in less than 48 hours, GRAABAK was the first man across the line after a furious sprint finish at RusSki Gorki, edging out Germany'sFabian RIESSLE (GER) by 0.3 seconds to win the LH/4x5km team event for Norway to add to his LH/10km individual win on Tuesday.
"I can't describe it, I think this is even bigger (than the individual gold)," said GRAABAK. RIESSLE, who finished third behind GRAABAK and Magnus Hovdal MOAN (NOR) after a five-man sprint finish on Tuesday, was forced to tip his cap to the Norwegian once again. "Joergen is a great athlete. He did well," said RIESSLE, whose desperate lunge for the line was not enough for gold but helped secure silver for Germany ahead of bronze medallist Austria. GRAABAK, MOAN and NH/10km bronze medallist Magnus KROG (NOR) all won their second medal of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, while Haavard KLEMETSEN (NOR) won his first.
Earlier, Germany won the ski jumping phase with a solid team effort to lead Austria by seven seconds heading into the cross country relay. Starting 25 seconds behind Eric FRENZEL (GER) in the first cross country leg, MOAN surged on the steep uphill climbs to quickly catch FRENZEL and Lukas KLAPFER (AUT) after just 1.5km. By the end of the first 2.5km lap, he had skied to the front of the pack. The three frontrunners then skied together for the rest of the race through all three exchanges.
While GRAABAK led the pack for most of the final 5km leg, RIESSLE and 36-year-old Mario STECHER (AUT) stayed with him to set up a three-way sprint finish for gold as they entered the stadium for the last time. "I wasn't planning on going first in the first lap, but I think the two guys behind me were a bit scared and didn't want to go first, so I took it a bit easy and saved myself for the sprint at the end," GRAABAK said.
STECHER could not keep up with his younger opponents at the finish but still secured bronze for Austria, his fourth consecutive Olympic medal in the team event, including gold medals at Torino 2006 and Vancouver 2010. "It was difficult to ski because the snow was slushy," STECHER said. "I'm satisfied with our position, we have got what we wanted. It's my fourth medal and it is the end of my career."
France, who started 35 seconds behind Germany, narrowed the gap to 13 seconds after 2.5km but the French skiers faded after that and they finished fourth, over a minute behind Norway.
In winning the team LH/4x5km on Thursday, Norway took its 10th gold medal at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, the fourth time it has reached double figures in a single Winter Games. Mario STECHER (AUT) is, at 36 years and 217 days old, the oldest person to win an Olympic medal in Nordic combined.
• Norway's record gold medal haul from the Salt Lake City 2002 Olympic Winter Games was 13.
• Norway took two gold medals in Nordic combined at a single Winter Games for the second time. It also achieved that feat in 1998.
• Joergen GRAABAK (NOR) is the most successful athlete in Nordic combined at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games. He will return home with two gold medals and joins countryman Bjarte Engen VIK (NOR) who also attained that tally in Nordic combined at a single Winter Games.
• Bjoern KIRCHEISEN (GER) and Mario STECHER (AUT) set an Olympic record by winning a fourth Olympic medal in Nordic combined's team event.
Magnus Hovdal MOAN (NOR) - gold
On putting Norway into first after his leg: "My goal was to catch the 25-second gap. I did my job. I had to ski faster at the end, but the two other guys were keeping the pace up."
On skiing the first leg: "I've never skied first, I'm enjoying the weather and the people around me."
On whether he would like to ski the first leg more often: "For sure, this would be my dream."
Joergen GRAABAK (NOR) - gold
On winning his second gold at Sochi 2014: "I can't describe it. I think this is even bigger."
On the sprint finish: "It was like two days ago, about being first into the stadium. I wasn't planning on going first in the first lap, but I think the two guys behind me were a bit scared and didn't want to go first, so I took it a bit easy and saved myself for the sprint at the end."
On whether he knew how close it was at the finish: "I saw behind me that (Fabian) RIESSLE (GER) was throwing his foot forward, but I was confident that I was first."
Fabian RIESSLE (GER) - silver
On winning silver: "It's great and a nice moment. It was a really hard race. We started slow at the beginning. Joergen (GRAABAK, NOR) is a great athlete. He did well."
Johannes RYDZEK (GER) - silver
On how he felt on the course: "It was difficult to ski because it was warm, but I liked it. I enjoyed the exchange moment."
Eric FRENZEL (GER) - silver
On how he felt on the race course: "Today it was a very dry day. I had problems with breathing, but I tried to compete and I'm happy I've done my p--art."
Mario STECHER (AUT) - bronze
On winning bronze: "It feels great. There were just a few seconds to gold medal, and we made it a good competition. It's almost a surprise for us making a medal position."
On his feelings: "It was difficult to ski because the snow was slushy. I'm satisfied with our position, we have got what we wanted. It's my fourth medal and it is the end of my career."
Jason LAMY CHAPPUIS (FRA) - 4th
On France's performance: "It was the worst scenario for us. The three strong nations worked together, and once in the group, even skiers like Haavard KLEMETSEN (NOR) could keep the pace. As for us, we had to ski on our own."
On how he feels about his Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games: "It was reflecting my season, I have always something missing and this is what makes the difference between a seventh place (his placement in the invidivual LH/10km event on Tuesday) and a podium."
On his cross country race: "I was struggling with the headwind on the cross country course because I was skiing alone."