Medal events: 3
Dates: 12th–20th February
For most of the athletes, service crews and coaches, new is the moment they have been waiting for during the past years: the Olympics are here! The next three weeks will decide about victory and defeat, about payback for long hours of training and about who enters his name into the history book of sports. The heat is definitely on for the Nordic Combined circus which will now slowly but surely head to the Russian city of Sochi and the Nordic Combined venue "RusSki Gorki".
On the 12th, 18th and 20th of February, the athletes will have the chance for three gold medals: in the Individual Gundersen competitions from the normal and large hill as well as the 4x5 team event as the grand final. For the first time in the history of the Olympics, the venues for ski jumping and cross-country are in one place with the cross-country track leading through the outrun of the two ski jumping hills on the northern slope of the Aibga Ridge in the village of Esto-Sadok.
As usual in these big title events, the search for favourites and medal candidates is easy and difficult at the same time: Germany's Eric Frenzel has dominated this winter season, grabbed the title of the Nordic Combined TRIPLE, almost has the second overall World Cup win under his belt already and still it is known that the sport has the tendency to write its own stories when it's just about your performance on this one day when it counts.
Other big names which have to be thrown in when the talk is about a gold medal are for sure France's Jason Lamy Chappuis who is the defending Vancouver 2010 World Champion alongside USA's Bill Demong. The strong Norwegians Magnus Moan and Mikko Kokslien who were also able to claim victories this winter are surely also able to hold onto a glittering gold on a good day as well as Vancouver bronze medallists Alessandro Pittin (ITA) and Bernhard Gruber (AUT) who have not been in the very top this season but can make the impossible possible during major events. And what about Japan's Akito Watabe who has collected fourth places en masse by now, can he finally make the jump onto the podium now? As second in the overall World Cup, Watabe should always be on the list for his first big international triumph.
In the Team Event, Austria is currently holding the gold medal and Bernhard Gruber and Mario Stecher of the Vancouver gold squad are still on the team for Sochi. After the course of the current season, however, the Norwegians are being the favourites for the gold in the team event alongside Team Germany who might even start in the same formation as the 2010 bronze team as Frenzel, Edelmann, Kircheisen and Rydzek are all going to Sochi. Some special attention also has to go to the American team who won silver in Vancouver. Team leaders Bill Deming and Todd Lodwick will be on location, Lodwick, a now six-time-Olympian, even with an injured shoulder which he sustained at a crash during the World Cup in Chaux-Neuve. And as the last team event in Oberstdorf showed, you can never relax around the reigning team World Champions from Fiemme 2013, Team France.
With seven Olympic medals, Austrian Felix Gottwald is the most decorated Nordic combined athlete in the history of the Winter Games. Gottwald’s Olympic career began with three bronze medals at the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, before he won gold in the 7.5km sprint and 4x5km team events, as well as silver in the 15km individual event, in Turin in 2006.
Perhaps the greatest individual performance at the Winter Games came in 2002, however, when Finland’s Samppa Lajunen won gold in all three Nordic combined events in Salt Lake City, to better the two silver medals he won in Nagano four years earlier.