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Olympics-Nordic combined-Norway cruise to relay gold


February 17, 2022

By Mitch Phillips

ZHANGJIAKOU, China (Reuters) -Joergen Graabak completed a wonderful personal week as he anchored Norway to gold in the Nordic combined large hill/4x5km relay on Thursday, adding the team title to the individual gold and silver medals already in his bag.

Graabak was involved in last-gasp sprints in those races but was able to pace himself carefully and cruise the latter stages this time and win by almost a minute after individual large hill silver medallist Jens Oftebro had broken clear on the third leg.

Defending champions Germany took silver after individual normal hill champion Vinzenz Geiger produced a fantastic final leg to make up 27 seconds on Japan, who took bronze.

There was always likely to be little in it on the cross country after the “big four” – each with two wins previously in the event since it joined the Games in 1988 – emerged from the ski jump with all of 12 seconds between them.

Austria came out tops, eight seconds ahead of Norway, with Germany (11) and Japan (12) a ski length or two behind.

Franz-Josef Rehrl had a great competition as he posted the biggest jump of the night for 127.5 points then went first in the cross country and kept Austria at the front.

World champion Johannes Lamparter, still only 20, kept Austria there but their hopes of building a lead by front-loading did not come to fruition, while Japan’s “weak link” Hideaki Nagai did superbly to stay in touch.

Norway left out Jarl Magnus Riiber, who was struggling for fitness after his two week COVID isolation, but they were hardly short of quality with Espen Bjoernstad drafted in as an experienced replacement alongside Graabak, Oftebro and Espen Andersen.

Germany’s multi-world and Olympic champion Eric Frenzel was also emerging from a lengthy COVID isolation and though he felt strong enough to race, it proved an ill-advised decision as he lost touch to hand the defending champions over 37 seconds adrift of the lead for the final leg.

Oftebro really dug in in the latter stages of the third leg to give Graabak a 10 second lead over Japan and Austria, with Germany another 27 seconds back.

Geiger worked incredibly hard to get back on terms and the three teams then settled into a tactical battle between themselves, allowing Graabak the easiest of rides to gold.

Geiger then drove on for silver with Ryota Yamamoto bringing Japan home for bronze.

(Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Toby Davis)



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