Rydzek leads an Olympic podium swipe for Team Germany
Johannes Rydzek was the fastest man in a wild sprint for the finish line but Team Germany had more to celebrate: Fabian Rießle and Eric Frenzel completed a German podium sweep in the large hill Individual Gundersen in PyeongChang. With this result, Germany is the first country to sweep the podium of an individual Nordic Combined event at the Olympics since Norway in 1936.
World Champion Rydzek adds an Olympic medal to his fast growing collection by finishing 0.4 seconds ahead of teammate Fabian Rießle. Eric Frenzel added an individual bronze to his merit list a further 0.4 seconds later.
Akito Watabe triumphed on the jumping hill when a jump of 134 metres (138.0 p.) in heavy conditions put him in pole position, if only narrowly. His lead on Norwegian jumping prodigy Jarl Magnus Riiber was one second. Riiber jumped 139 metres and accumulated a total of 138.6 points. Austrian veteran Willi Denifl shone with 137.5 metres which catapulted him into the third position, starting +0:16 seconds after Watabe.
All of these three could feel the breath of a German high speed train on the backs with Eric Frenzel, Johannes Rydzek and Fabian Rießle all jumping well and claiming the promising positions four, five and six for the race, starting with a deficit of only 24 to 34 seconds.
Also still in the game was Finnish youngster Eero Hirvonen on rank seven +0:44. Go Yamamoto rounded out the group of athletes starting within the first minute on rank eight, starting with a delay of 58 seconds after a 127.5 metre jump. Defending title holder Jørgen Graabak was unlucky and did not get much wind support. He ranked only 19th with a delay of one minute and 52 seconds, which effectively destroyed his chances of repeating his Sochi result.
Akito Watabe and Jarl Riiber tried their best to escape the approaching German squad but by the 6 km point, Eric Frenzel, Fabian Rießle and Johannes Rydzek had closed the gap. From this point on, the five skiers plus Wilhelm Denifl and Eero Hirvonen, who had worked hard to close his 44 second gap on the leaders skied together until the last uphill.
The result of the race was still in the balance at the 8.5 km point or rather until the last long climb. Akito Watabe and Eero Hirvonen were not able to follow when the German team accelerated but Norway’s Jarl Magnus Riiber was hanging on for dear life. In the end, he was able to stay with the German group but entered the stadium last. In a direct duel with the strong German sprinters, he did not stand a chance but conquered his second fourth place in his second Olympic event.
The Top Ten were completed by a strong Vinzenz Geiger on rank seven, Willi Denifl finished eights, Lukas Klapfer ninth and Jørgen Graabak tenth. As almost customary, the fastest man on the track was Alessandro Pittin from Italy, who skied the 10 km in 23:13.9 and improved position 40 to 27 in the end.
Johannes RYDZEK (GER) - gold
"On the first round we worked together really well to close up the half-minute gap to the leading group and when we got there we all saved a little bit of power because we helped each other. Then it was a better position for us to sprint. I knew I had the opportunity to win but I knew also these five guys in the group could also win so I have to put all my heart and all my power into the last climb and then also the last metres and just when I went across the finish line, I really believed I won.
We have such a strong team and we all knew that if we show our best performance we are all good for the podium or for the win. I think for our sport in Germany, Nordic combined, it was such a huge thing to get all the medals. I'm so happy I'm in this team and it's so much fun to compete and train with them."
Fabian RIESSLE (GER) - silver
"It's amazing. On the small (normal) hill I was a little unlucky with the wind (but) today I had a great jump and also a nice race. I'm totally happy with the silver medal. We did a great great job. Today we talked to each other before the race and we tried to work together and it worked very well. It feels amazing."
Eric FRENZEL (GER) - bronze
"It's really an amazing feeling. I think for the German team it was a really special day. Three medals... unbelievable. For me it's the second medal, I'm really happy, it's so special for me at these Olympics. One more competition is the team event, I think we are in a quite good position. We are looking forward to it."