Rydzek leads German sweep in Nordic combined at Olympics

The team from Italy celebrates their bronze medal during venue ceremony at the 2x6-kilometer women's + 2x7.5-kilometer men's mixed relay biathlon at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018. They are (L-R) Lisa Vittozzi, Dorothea Wierer, Lukas Hofer, and Dominik Windisch. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) From fifth to first, Johannes Rydzek got his gold.

The 26-year-old Rydzek led a German sweep of the Olympic podium on Tuesday in Nordic combined, finishing ahead of teammates Fabien Riessle and normal hill champion Eric Frenzel.

Rydzek was in fifth place after the ski jump portion of the event, but he erased a 31-second deficit in the 10-kilometer cross-country race and took the lead on the last lap to win the large hill gold medal at the Pyeongchang Games.

”It was in incredible moment that last couple of meters,” Rydzek said. ”I knew I was accompanied by two very strong racers who would push me to the last and it was a great day for German athletes.”

Riessle was four seconds off the pace for silver while Frenzel took the bronze, eight seconds behind.

Overall World Cup leader Akito Watabe of Japan, who was first after the ski jumping stage and started with a one-second lead over Jarl Magnus Riiber of Norway, led for most of the race but faded over the last two kilometers and finished fifth.

Rydzek, Riessle and Frenzel all produced strong jumps.

”After the jump I was happy to see I had a good position,” Riessle said. ”Our coach asked us to work together during the race and we were able to finish 1-2-3. That’s not something that is going to happen again anytime soon.”

Watabe and Riiber contested for the lead early on and built up a 16-second lead over the three Germans. But Rydzek, Riessle and Frenzel gradually closed the gap and surged into the lead on the last lap.

Rydzek, known for his strength in cross-country, has been building momentum since winning four golds at the Nordic World Ski Championships in Lahti, Finland, last year.

A month after winning the world junior title in Hinterzarten, Germany, in January 2010, Rydzek made his Olympic debut in Vancouver and finished on the podium, helping the German quartet win bronze in the team event.

Fifth overall in the World Cup standings this season, his lone title this season came in Kuusamo, Finland, on Nov. 26.

After winning the normal hill title, Frenzel was looking to become the second athlete to win gold in both the normal and large hill in a single edition of the Winter Olympics after Finland’s Samppa Lajunen, who won both events at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games.

”Of course, the goal of every athlete is to be on top,” Frenzel said. ”But this was a great day for us. We knew after the jump that everything was falling in place for us and we showed them Germany is a force to be reckoned with.”

Nordic combined features ski jumping and a cross-country ski race. The athlete who wins the ski jumping stage starts first, followed by the remaining athletes in their order of finish.

More AP Olympic coverage: https://wintergames.ap.org

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