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Akito Watabe takes bronze behind Joergen Graabak’s gold in Nordic combined


Norway’s Joergen Graabak produced another trademark late surge to take Olympic gold in the Nordic combined large hill 10-kilometer race on Tuesday after a similar charge came up inches short when he claimed silver in the normal hill last week.

Graabak, the 2014 large hill champion, started the cross-country race in 12th place, a massive two minutes, seven seconds down on compatriot Jarl Magnus Riiber, who was launching an unlikely bid for glory a day after being released from two weeks of COVID-19 isolation.

Just as he did last week, Graabak sat back in the field and timed his charge perfectly to edge compatriot Jens Oftebro, who also came from deep to take silver, and Japan’s Akito Watabe who got bronze.

Germany, who swept the podium in 2018, had a best of fourth place in the shape of late call-up Manuel Faisst, who made the running for much of the race but lost out in the finish-line charge.

Earlier Riiber, who tested positive on arrival in Beijing and was released from isolation only on Monday, produced a monster 142 meter leap to earn a 44-second lead going into the cross-country leg.

He looked solid enough early on but took a wrong turn at the end of the first 2.5km lap. His 40-second lead was immediately slashed and he had to tuck in alongside Faisst and Watabe.

They were joined by world champion Johannes Lamparter of Austria and that group of four were clear at the 7.5km mark before Riiber ran out of gas and faded to finish eighth.

The race had been brought forward 30 minutes but temperatures still dipped below minus 20 degrees Celsius, officially the temperature below which cross-country races are usually postponed.

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