KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — Eric Frenzel of Germany led after ski jumping and then powered home on the cross-country course to win the gold medal Wednesday in the Nordic combined individual normal hill at the Sochi Olympics.
Frenzel, last year's World Cup champion and this year's runaway leader, started the 10-kilometer cross-country race with a six-second advantage over Akito Watabe of Japan.
Watabe and Frenzel opened up an early lead of about 20 seconds on the rest of the pack, and then traded places a few times before Frenzel skied away in the final kilometer to win by 4.2 seconds. His time was 23 minutes, 50.2 seconds.
"I can't describe this feeling, it's so perfect," said Frenzel.
The silver went to Watabe in a time of 23:54.4. Magnus Krog of Norway earned the bronze in 23:58.3.
Watabe said he had nothing left at the end to chase Frenzel, who weighs just 60 kilograms (132 pounds) and was able to glide more easily over the soft snow on the course.
"I had no chance this time, I was really tired after the uphill," Watabe said. "I tried to beat him, that's the important thing."
Alessandro Pittin of Italy just missed repeating for the bronze medal, finishing 1.2 seconds behind Krog to take fourth.
Jason Lamy Chappuis of France, the defending gold medalist on the normal hill at Vancouver, finished 35th, 2 minutes, 37 seconds behind Frenzel.
"I was just trying to survive during the 10 kilometers," he said. "Right from the start my legs were not working well, the glide was not good. It has been a nightmare. I was passed by guys that I normally beat by a minute."
Using the Gundersen method, the skiers went off in staggered starts based on their performance in the ski jumping portion, all of them chasing Frenzel. Watabe started six seconds behind and 18 athletes had less than a minute handicap.
Billy Demong of Park City, Utah, the defending gold medalist on the large hill, was the leading American, finishing 24th overall. He finished 31st in ski jumping, started 1:33 after Frenzel and was 1:49.6 behind at the end.
Bryan Fletcher of Steamboat Springs, Colo., was 41st after jumping, gave Frenzel a 1:44 head start and finished 26th, 1:55.5 behind.
Fletcher's brother Taylor was last in the jumping portion, started 2:34 behind and finished 33rd, 2:32.7 behind, making up two seconds on the cross-country leg.
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 Feb. 20 team competition, where the U.S. won silver in Vancouver in 2010.
The 25-year-old Frenzel, who has served in the German army, has been the most consistent Nordic combined athlete in the last two years. He leads this season's championship by 352 points after winning seven of the 11 events he has entered. He now has a gold medal to go with the Olympic bronze he won with the German team on the large hill at Vancouver in 2010.
Two hours earlier, Frenzel, jumping last, soared 103 meters and scored 131.5 points to overcome the 100.5 meters and 130.0 points posted by Watabe immediately before him. That ensured the German was first off in the cross-country event on the 2.5-kilometer loop course adjacent to the ski jump.
The next Nordic combined gold medal — the individual large hill — will be contested on Feb. 18. The men's team event two days later will be the final Olympic competition at the RusSki Gorki Jumping Center.