Norway's dominance in Nordic combined continued Thursday as they overcame a 25-second deficit to claim gold in the men's large hill 4x5-kilometer team relay at Mountain Cluster in Sochi.
In a photo finish, Norway's Joergen Graabak beat Germany's Fabian Riessle to the finish line by 0.3 seconds.
Defending Olympic gold medalists Austria, who finished 3.4 seconds back, settled for bronze.
|Finish (Medal)||Team||Ski Jump||CC Race||Time/Difference|
|1 (Gold)||Norway||462.8 (+0:25)||46:48.5||47:13.5|
|3 (Bronze)||Austria||476.3 (+0:07)||47:09.9||+3.4|
|7||Czech Republic||440.0 (+0:56)||48:40.1||+2:22.6|
Trailing by nearly two minutes heading into the cross-country relay, Team USA finished sixth, two minutes, 21.6 seconds back of Norway.
The result is disappointing for the Americans, who were confident coming into the event based on veteran Bill Demong's assessment, per The New York Times' Ken Belson: "I think our team has been jumping well on the larger hills recently. There’s definitely five or six teams who have medal potential, and we’re definitely on that short list."
The host Russians were even less fortunate, finishing ninth—more than five and a half minutes after the gold medalists crossed the finish line.
Norway's win was highlighted by Graabak's sprint to the finish on the final 100 meters, but his effort wouldn't have been possible if not for Magnus Krog's performance on Norway's first leg.
Krog, a cross-country ski specialist who won bronze in the 10-kilometer normal hill in Sochi, erased Germany's 25-second lead, giving the Norwegians a shot at the gold.
Germany's big lead came courtesy of a strong performance in the ski jumping stage, in which they posted a combined score of 481.7. Austria weren't far behind with 476.3, but Norway were much further back in third after scoring 462.8.
Norway completed the cross-country race in a total time of 46 minutes, 48.5 seconds. It was 25.3 seconds faster than Germany and 21.4 seconds faster than Austria, who saw their chances dwindle when veteran Mario Stecher faded in the anchor leg.
#Sochi2014 Mario Stecher (AUT), at 36 years and 217 days, becomes the oldest person to win an Olympic medal in Nordic combined.— Infostrada Sports (@InfostradaGold) February 20, 2014
The gold medal marks Norway's 10th at the 2014 Winter Olympics, which is the most of any competing nation. It is their second gold and fourth overall medal in a Nordic combined event.
With the Games set to conclude Sunday, Norway are in excellent position to win the gold-medal count.
Although they still trail the United States, Russia and the Netherlands in the overall medal count, Thursday's triumph could give them the spark they need to finish atop the standings.
With four days of competition remaining and a handful of more medals to be won, Norway are poised to keep things interesting in Sochi this weekend.
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