Germany's Frenzel wins Olympic gold in Nordic combined normal hill
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) Gold medal favorite Eric Frenzel of Germany competed true to form Wednesday to take the lead after the ski jumping portion of the Nordic combined individual normal hill event at the Sochi Olympics.
Jumping last of 46 entries, runaway World Cup leader Frenzel soared 103 meters and scored 131.5 points to overcome the 100.5 meters and 130.0 points posted by Japan's Akito Watabe immediately before him.
Evgeniy Klimov's opening jump of the day held until the final two jumpers. The Russian finished with the third-best total.
Under the Gundersen system, Frenzel will lead off the 10-kilometer cross-country portion later Wednesday on a course adjacent to the hill at the RusSki Gorki Jumping Center - four loops of the 2.5-kilometer circuit.
Watabe will start six seconds after Frenzel and Klimov 27 seconds behind.
''It's a really good position for me,'' Frenzel said. ''I think the jump was really perfect, and then I think I can work together with Akito on the track and (make it) hard for the guys behind us to catch us. And then we will see.''
Jason Lamy Chappuis of France, the normal hill defending champion from 2010, was the eighth-best jumper and will start his pursuit of Frenzel 31 seconds after the German begins the course.
''I'm still in good position, 30 seconds behind the first guys,'' Lamy Chappuis said. ''It's going to be a really tough race this afternoon, so anything is still possible.''
Magnus Moan of Norway, one of the strongest skiers, finished 15th on the hill and will start 48 seconds behind. Still, he likes his chances of being among the leaders at the end.
''I just hope that the body and the skis and everything are on my side. ... If everything goes my way, I'm on the podium today,'' he said.
Moan said he'll put up with the mild conditions and soft, sloppy snow on the low-altitude course.
''This is like a really good summer day in Trondheim, in Norway,'' he said. ''I would hope for a little more colder weather and a little more harder surface, but it's the same for everyone.''
Billy Demong of Park City, Utah, the defending gold medalist on the large hill, was the leading American after the jumping in 31st place. He will start 1 minute, 33 seconds after Frenzel.
''I'm going to guess it's probably a little bit outside of what's going to be the medal group,'' Demong said. ''But I think it's going to be tight, so I'm not going to close any doors mentally.''
The brother act of Bryan and Taylor Fletcher, both from Steamboat Springs, Colo., are cross-country specialists, and will have their work cut out for them. Bryan Fletcher was 41st and will give Frenzel a 1 minute, 44-second head start. His brother was last in the jumping portion and will have the biggest pursuit margin of all - 2 minutes, 34 seconds.
Todd Lodwick, also from Steamboat Springs, finished 34th in the jumping and said later he would not compete in the cross-country portion.
Lodwick, 37, who is attending his sixth Winter Games, has an injured shoulder and wants to save himself for the team competition, where the U.S. won silver in Vancouver in 2010.