KRASNAYA POLYANA, RUSSIA – Joergen Graabak broke away from a five-man group with about 100 meters left in the cross-country race to give Norway a one-two finish in the Nordic combined large hill event Tuesday.
In steady rain, Graabak finished six-tenths of a second ahead of silver medalist Magnus Moan. Fabian Riessle of Germany was 1.6 seconds behind and took the bronze.
Normal hill gold medal winner Eric Frenzel of Germany was an uncertain starter due to a virus, but led after the ski jumping. He faded badly, however, in the 10-km cross-country ski race to finish 10th.
Graabak finished sixth in the ski jumping portion and started 42 seconds after Frenzel, but quickly made up the deficit with the German unable to hold his lead for long.
“It’s pretty obvious how I feel,” the 22-year-old Norwegian said. “It’s a bit surreal. I will need time to enjoy the moment. My tactic was to ski well and hopefully to stay with the top guys.”
He finished in a time of 23 minutes, 27.5 seconds on the course adjacent to the hill complex at the RusSki Gorki Jumping Center.
Akito Watabe, who won silver behind Frenzel in the normal hill, was sixth, followed by Jason Lamy Chappuis of France, the normal hill gold medal winner from Vancouver in 2010. Lamy Chappuis was among a 10-man pack that alternated the lead for much of the race.
“It was a hard race and difficult to keep a good position,” said Watabe. “I fell down on the corner of the downhill. And after that it was hard to catch a groove again. Rain is always too difficult to ski with, but it was the same for everyone.”
Lamy Chappuis said he struggled physically during the race.
“I have nothing to regret,” the Frenchman said. “I was in the leading group … my thighs are burning. On some days you have the feeling that nothing can happen to you, but on other days it’s not the same story.”
Germany might have had another man on the podium but Johannes Rydzek fell on the final turn after appearing to hit the back of Graabak’s skis. He finished eighth.
Six seconds after Rydzek, Frenzel, the runaway leader in the World Cup standings this season with seven wins, crossed the line. Without the virus, he likely would have threatened for another gold.
“We all had the chance to win a medal, but it did not work out,” said Frenzel. “I am looking forward to the team event (on Thursday).”
Defending gold medalist Billy Demong of Park City, Utah, finished in 31st place, 2:13.8 behind the winner. The leading American was Taylor Fletcher in 20th, two places ahead of his older brother Bryan, both from Steamboat Springs, Colo.
American veteran Todd Lodwick, still recovering from a left shoulder injury, did not start the cross-country race after finishing 30th in ski jumping.
Earlier, Frenzel scored 129 points in the ski jump in day-long rain, two better than Norway’s Haavard Klemetsen, who finished ninth.
The rain was a first at the RusSki Gorki Jumping Center since the Sochi Games began. While organizers have in previous days used a synthetic material to fashion a palm tree on sunny days and a heart on Valentine’s Day in the landing area, they turned it into dolphin Tuesday in keeping with the soggy theme.
The showers didn’t appear to play a part in an injury to Japan’s Taihei Kato, who broke his left arm after crashing. Kato landed awkwardly, lost his left ski and then fell hard on to his left elbow. He was conscious and appeared to be in pain as he was taken off by medical officials to a local hospital.