Luke Graham: Nordic combined primer

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Four years ago:

Individual Gundersen Normal Hill and 10-kilometer

Gold — Jason Lamy Chappuis

Silver — Johnny Spillane

Bronze — Bernhard Gruber

A look at this year’s field:

Wednesday’s race is Germany’s Eric Frenzel’s to lose. He won World Championships in 2011 and 2013 and has been dominant on the World Cup this season. He has four normal hill wins this season, including the last three.

He’s won seven of the 11 World Cups he’s entered this season.

Lamy Chappuis should be the main challenger. Other notables that could see the podium include Norway’s Haavard Klemetsen and Japan’s Akito Watabe.

American outlook:

It’s been a rough go early on for the Americans in Russia. Through three days of training the United States could never find a rhythm on the jump hill. Although they are some of the best cross country skiers in the world, the jumping hill has stifled them.

Bryan Fletcher has had some good results on the normal hill, however. He has had three top 10s, including a sixth in Austria. Brother Taylor also had a pair of sixths in Chaikovskly, Russia in early January. Don’t count out Billy Demong either. He’s been America’s most consistent jumper all week and is a big game skier.

X Factor:

Will be that cross country course. It’s a brutal initial climb, but it’s the weather that will be the biggest factor Wednesday. Temperatures are expected to be in the mid 50s. It will create a soft and slushy course.

This will help skiers like Taylor Fletcher and Demong who are light on their skis. Depending on the shape of the course, what wax technicians are able to do, this cross country portion of the race could lend for someone that starts farther back (i.e. and American) to get a surprise medal.

Prediction:

Gold — Frenzel

Silver — Watabe

Bronze — Lamy Chappuis

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