Rydzek, the second reigning world champion to win the event after Bill Demong of the USA at Vancouver 2010, lay fifth after the ski jumping round at Alpensia Ski Jumping Centre, sandwiched between Frenzel and Riessle and 31 seconds behind competition leader Akito Watabe of Japan.
Skiing with his team-mates throughout the four laps of the floodlit course at the Alpensia Cross-Country Centre, a composed Rydzek bridged the gap on Watabe and then broke clear on the final lap. In proving too strong for Frenzel and Riessle in the sprint finish, the 26-year-old German secured his country’s first ever victory in the event, which has been on the Olympic programme since Salt Lake City 2002.
Frenzel’s bronze was his second medal of PyeongChang 2018, following his victory in the individual normal hill/individual 10km on 14 February. Watabe, a silver medallist behind Frenzel in the normal hill/10km, held a narrow one-second lead after leaping to 142m in the ski jumping round but could finish no higher than fifth overall, ten seconds behind Norway’s Jarl Magnus Riiber, who lay second at the halfway stage of the competition.
“Amazing! I don’t know what to say, it’s unreal,” said an ecstatic Rydzek afterwards. “It was an incredible race – Nordic combined at its best. It was such a tough fight with five guys in the leading group. They could have all got in among the medals.”
Commenting on the all-German podium, he added: “We have such a strong team and we all knew that if we produced our best performance, then we were all good for the podium or for the win. Winning all the medals is a huge thing for our sport in Germany. I’m so happy that I’m in this team and it’s so much fun to compete and train with them.”
“We cannot celebrate too much because we have the team event in two days, but I think we can have a beer or two tonight,” said silver medallist Riessle.
“It’s really an amazing feeling,” added Frenzel. “It’s a really special day for the German team. Three medals is unbelievable. For me it’s my second medal so I’m really happy. These Olympics have been so special for me.”