Text: Topias Mikkonen
Kuva: Janina Pitkänen
Akito Watabe from Japan managed to capture gold in the Nordic Combined 10 kilometer Gundersen event in Lahti on Sunday. After a two-year-long dry span, Watabe, who started the cross-country section only one second behind his Japanese teammate, Ryota Yamamoto, solo-skied to an amazing victory.
The World Cup leader, Norway’s Jarl-Magnus Riiber, who ended up second, started the skiing section 27 seconds behind Watabe, but couldn’t catch him today.
– I was disappointed in the ski jumping style points. Still, I thought I could maybe catch Akito but after the 5 kilometer mark I noticed that he was too strong today. Maybe I could’ve tried to close the gap later, Riiber analyzed the race.
For strong skiers, the ski jumping was too difficult and no one was able to catch Riiber or Watabe. Behind them, it was Germany’s Johannes Rydzek, starting the skiing section a minute and six seconds after Yamamoto, who was able to top the others to finish fourth, 28 seconds behind the winner Watabe. Third place went also to Japan. Ryota Yamamoto was able to climb to the podium for the first time in an individual event. He barely beat Rydzek – by four seconds – and lost 24 seconds to the winner.
As in many events of this season’s World Cup, the Finns, Eero Hirvonen and Ilkka Herola, weren’t able to compete for glory due to poor-ish ski jumps. Hirvonen would’ve started the skiing section 3.32 behind the leader but he decided not to start. Herola ended up being the best home country athlete climbing up to the ninth place, crossing the finish line 57 seconds after Riiber.
– The skiing wasn’t perfect, but I’m pleased with it. There is no reason to panic, Herola commented.