KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — Joergen Graabak delivered a long awaited Olympic gold medal for the nation that pioneered Nordic combined, then added another victory for good measure to help Norway restore its status in the sport.
Four years after being shut out of the medals at Vancouver, Norway topped the Nordic combined medal standings at the Sochi Olympics with two gold and four medals overall.
Eric Frenzel’s timing wasn’t so good. After winning on the normal hill, he got sick and missed out on a medal in the individual large hill competition. He recovered in time to help Germany to a silver medal in the team event on the same hill.
“We had a bit of a rough patch in Vancouver … to be able to take the gold and also three individual medals at these championships is unreal,” Graabak said after Norway edged Germany and 2006 and 2010 champion Austria in the team event.
Norway has the most Olympic medals in the sport – 12 – but Graabak’s gold was the country’s first since Nagano 1998, when Bjarte Engen Vik won the individual and team events.
Graabak’s teammate Magnus Moan picked up silver on the large hill, and Magnus Krog got bronze on the normal hill behind Frenzel and Akito Watabe of Japan.
The medals certainly helped restore some recognition in the country known as the birthplace of the sport in the late 1800s.
Frenzel’s illness didn’t hurt Norway. The German athlete’s win on the normal hill fulfilled expectations – he won the World Cup last season and is the runaway leader this year with seven wins in 11 events. But he pulled out of the last day of training for the large hill and was a doubtful starter.
He recovered to take his place in the competition and led after the ski jumping. But he a faded badly in the 10-kilometer cross-country race and finished 10th.
“I felt really much better than the last competition,” Frenzel said after Germany finished second in the team event. “My body felt today really good. For me it was a perfect Olympic Games: two medals – one gold, one silver.”
While Norway picked up four medals they hadn’t won at Vancouver, the United States lost the four it captured in 2010.
Defending champion Billy Demong of Park City, Utah, finished in 31st place in the large hill. Demong and a trio of competitors from Steamboat Springs, Colorado – veteran Todd Lodwick and brothers Bryan and Taylor Fletcher – were sixth in the team event that they won silver in at Vancouver.
Johnny Spillane of the United States won silvers on both the normal and large hills in 2010 but has retired, and Demong and Lodwick are in the process of doing the same.
Demong, 32, said he definitely won’t be back at the 2018 Games as an athlete, and the 37-year-old Lodwick, who competed in his sixth games and carried the U.S. flag at the opening ceremony, plans to spend more time with his family.
“Certainly now we’re really going to see a turnover, and I’m excited for that,” Demong said. “I think other guys deserve a chance.”