Is this Nordic combined or short-track? The second Nordic combined event of the Olympics came down to a pack finish, a wreck and some surprising medalists.
Sport: Nordic combined
Event: Large hill – one jump that determines start times for the 10k cross-country race
Medalists: Joergen Graabak (Norway), Magnus Moan (Norway), Fabian Riessle (Germany)
SportsMyriad projections: Eric Frenzel (Germany), Wilhelm Dinifl (Austria), Jason Lamy-Chappuis (France)
How U.S. fared: Defending champion Bill Demong hasn’t been in winning form over the past couple of years, and he needed a good jump to be a contender. He didn’t get it, going more than 20 meters behind the top guys to start 38th, 2:18 back.
All four U.S. athletes were set to start in a pack — Bryan Fletcher 27th (1:59 back), Todd Lodwick 30th (2:01 back), Taylor Fletcher 35th (2:13) and Demong.
Lodwick, as he did in the normal hill event, opted not to start the cross-country phase. And Taylor Fletcher, as he did in the normal hill, started climbing through the field. He finished 20th, two ahead of brother Bryan. Demong was 31st.
What happened: Germany’s Eric Frenzel was supposedly sick. He didn’t seem sick on his jump, taking the lead. Behind him: Norway’s Haavard Klemetsen (8 seconds back), Austria’s Bernhard Gruber (22), Japan’s Akito Watabe (33), Jason Lamy-Chappuis of Montana via France (33), Norway’s Joergen Graabak (42) and the ever-dangerous Magnus Moan of Norway (45). Lurking: Germany’s Bjorn Kircheisen (1:03).
Grbuer quickly closed the gap, within one second at the 1.5k mark. Lamy-Chappuis and Moan also were surging. After one lap around the 2.5k course, it was a seven-man pack with the top seven from the ski jumping. By 4k, it was 10, with Kircheisen and fellow Germans Fabian Riessle and Johannes Rydzek joining the fun.
That pack stayed together without incident through 7.5k, when Watabe slipped. The silver medalist in the normal hill scrambled to get back in the race.
Frenzel finally fell off the pace on the last lap, surely ailing a little. Kircheisen took out fast on that climb and led at 9k, but the Norwegians shot past him. With five racers attacking the same curve in the stadium, Rydzek tumbled.
Norwegians Graabak and Moan dueled for gold, with Graabak taking it by 0.6 seconds. Then the two Germans, with Riessle 1.6 seconds back and Kircheisen 2.1. The other contenders trickled in 10 seconds later.
Graabak had never won a World Cup event. Riessle matched his best-ever World Cup finish.
The team event is yet to come, and don’t bet against Norway and Germany for the podium.