Germany's Eric Frenzel more than lived up to the hype at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi on Wednesday, taking home gold in the nordic combined men's individual normal hill competition.
CBC reporter Douglas Gelevan was there to capture Frenzel's triumph:
Japanese skier Akito Watabe had several chances to secure the top spot on the podium, but was unable to pull away, instead settling for silver. Norway's Magnus Krog fought off a hungry pack of skiers late to wrap up bronze add to the Norwegian's impressive overall medal count.
Here's a look at the final results from the Mountain Cluster:
|1 (Gold)||Eric Frenzel (GER)||23:50.2|
|2 (Silver)||Akito Watabe (JPN)||+4.2|
|3 (Bronze)||Magnus Krog (NOR)||+8.1|
|4||Alessandro Pittin (ITA)||+9.3|
|5||Magnus Hovdal Moan (NOR)||+12.7|
|6||Johannes Rydzek (GER)||+17.3|
|7||Lukas Runggaldier (ITA)||+19.7|
|8||Fabian Riessle (GER)||+29.4|
|9||Tino Edelmann (GER)||+37.0|
|10||Haavard Klemetson (NOR)||+38.2|
*Click here to view complete results courtesy of Sochi2014.com.
Frenzel, who was the favorite to take home gold coming in, led after the ski jumping round, earning 131.5 points and taking a six-second advantage into the cross country section. Watabe and Russia's Evgeniy Klimov were second and third, respectively, following the ski jump.
None of the four competing Americans were higher than 31st after the ski jump, with veteran Bill Demong representing Team USA's top performer through the first stage.
Olympic silver medalist Todd Lodwick was 34th, Bryan Fletcher was 41st and Taylor Fletcher was anchored in the 46th and final spot. The 37-year-old and six-time Olympian Lodwick would wind up in last place after not participating in the cross country.
In the cross country stage, Frenzel and Watabe were clearly the two men to beat as they took turns taking the lead on one another, per NBC Olympics web producer Greg Ferraro on Twitter:
That gap is growing, looks like A. Watabe (JPN) and Frenzel (GER) are battling for gold. #nordiccombined— Greg Ferraro (@GFerraroNBC) February 12, 2014
The two skiers would exchange the lead several times down the stretch, setting the stage for a dramatic finish. With the rest of the field falling more than 13 seconds off the pace at the 7.5-kilometer mark, the bronze medal was seemingly up for grabs.
In the end, the man many predicted to win gold did just that, as the 25-year-old Frenzel earned his first Olympic gold medal and put a stamp on what's sure to be a bright future in the sport.
While all eyes were on Frenzel and Watabe in the late stages, Team USA's best hope, Demong was making up ground. He would finish 24th, nearly two minutes off Frenzel's gold-medal-winning pace.
The result is certainly a tough pill to swallow for the 33-year-old Demong, who told reporters ahead of Wednesday's event that this would more than likely be his last shot at Olympic hardware, per The Watertown Daily Times:
It was really final that I was done after this. I’m entertaining hitting a few events next year to get ready for the team event at the World Cup, but I’ve got a few things going on at home. Unless I’m here in a different sport or capacity in four years’ time, it’s totally off the table.
But Demong, who won gold and silver in Vancouver four years ago, was wary of the course conditions prior to Day 5's medal run, per The Watertown Daily Times:
It’s not even slushy. It’s mushy, and it’s very hard to ski on. There’s no structure to the snow, and the person who can float the best wins. The tempo will not be the same as the normal snow conditions, and it will be very tough. The race will separate people. I felt pretty bad when I did my intensity yesterday, but I could do my jumps here today and felt fine.
The weather cooperated for Demong and his fellow competitors on Wednesday, though, as sunshine filled the sky with 52F temperatures at the start of the cross country stage.
While Team USA will still be disappointed with their overall performance in this event, there's definitely no doubting what Frenzel was able to accomplish. Not only did he wow in the ski jump, but he displayed tremendous poise in the cross country section.
Based on his performance, he's certainly a force to be reckoned with for years to come.
The 25-year-old Watabe's impressive display also highlights the immense young talent in the sport. With both men likely to be going at it again in 2018, the significance of Wednesday's result can't be overstated.
While Watabe's landmark result suggests a promising future,securing Japan's first nordic combined medal since 1994, Frenzel now has the confidence to fend off the world's best on the biggest stage.
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