Rydzek at the double as Nordic combined blazes Korean trail
Johannes Rydzek of Germany completed a glorious double at PyeongChang’s Alpensia Center, as he topped the podium in the normal and large hill events at the FIS Nordic Combined World Cup on 4-5 February, which served as the sport’s test event for next year’s Olympic Winter Games.
On the first day of competition Rydzek claimed his 13th career World Cup victory in the individual large hill/10km event, seeing off his compatriot and reigning Olympic normal hill champion Eric Frenzel.
Rydzek was the second-best ski jumper on the 140m hill, thanks to an effort of 135.5m for 132.6 points, which placed him 29 seconds behind leader Mario Seidl of Austria, who jumped 136m. However, Rydzek then posted a time of 24 minutes 43.9 seconds in the 10km race, which eventually gave him a 20 second lead over Seidl, who clocked a time of 25:32.9 in cross-country skiing.
The victory moved Rydzek up to the top of the World Cup leaderboard ahead of compatriot Eric Frenzel, the reigning normal hill Olympic champion, who is looking for a fifth successive overall World Cup title. Frenzel missed the podium by just 0.5 seconds, after being edged out by yet another German Fabian Riessle, who posted a time of 25:51.2.
“It's nice to be here,” Rydzek said. “I think I did great performance on the hill and the cross-country course as well. I'm happy.”
Meanwhile Seidl was delighted to secure the first podium finish of his career. “It feels very good," he said. "This is my first time on the podium, so I'm very happy.”
Home fans were out in force to watch the first ever Nordic Combined World Cup event staged in the Republic of Korea, and there was a special cheer reserved for their sole representative in the competition Park Je-un, who finished 31st.
The following day Rydzek repeated the feat with triumph in the normal hill event. That came thanks to a nail-biting victory over Frenzel in the cross-country component. It took a photo finish to separate the two Germans who were both given the same time of 26 minutes 14.0 seconds before Rydzek was given the nod.
Seidl claimed his second podium in as many days, coming third in 26:33.0 after winning the ski jumping section to build a 35 second advantage over Frenzel. Seidl leaped a massive 142 metres for a points total of 127.1. Meanwhile, Frenzel managed a jump of 131.5m, which gave the Sochi 2014 individual/normal hill Olympic champion 118.3 points but Rydzek caught up with him during the ski despite starting sixth. It meant that Rydzek increased his overall lead over Frenzel in the World Cup standings and now boasts 1,390 points compared to his rival's 1,274.
The hugely experienced Frenzel, was full of praise for the PyeongChang venue and said he had high hopes of adding to his Olympic title tally next year. “This place has a nice hill, and it's in good condition. My goal is to win the Olympic gold medal again here next year.”
He also expressed hope that the host nation would embrace Nordic combined, after watching the exploits of their sole representative in the weekend’s event, Park Je-un
“Nordic combined is a nice sport," he said. "He (Park) can bring many more South Koreans with impressive performance here. He is the only one right now, but I believe there will be more people competing in this sport in Korea.”