* Germans surge through field in display of teamwork
* Rydzek started cross-country leg 31 seconds back
* Germany now joint first in medals table (Adds quotes, paras 4-6)
By Mark Trevelyan
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea, Feb 20 (Reuters) - Johannes Rydzek overcame a time handicap of more than half a minute to storm through and win Germany’s second Nordic Combined gold medal of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics on Tuesday as team mates Fabian Riessle and Eric Frenzel took silver and bronze.
Skiing together throughout the four laps of the floodlit cross-country course, the three Germans gradually reeled in their rivals on a clear, cold night, cancelling out the deficit they incurred by placing fifth, sixth and fourth in the ski jump part of the competition.
It was Germany’s 11th gold medal of the Games, taking them level with Norway at the top of the table.
“In the last few metres I gave everything I had, with all my heart and strength,” Rydzek told reporters. “It was an amazing day for us and for our sport in Germany. I think we’re all quite elated.”
Coach Hermann Weinbach said he had shed a tear at watching his team rebound so dramatically from recent poor results, and promised “full-on attack” in the Nordic Combined team event on Thursday, where Norway is likely to be the toughest opponent.
Riessle told reporters: “Hermann told us to help each other during the race. We kept switching positions and then we did a 1-2-3, which is just extraordinary.”
Earlier, Japan’s Akito Watabe had taken a one-second head-start into the cross-country, ahead of Jarl Magnus Riiber of Norway, after scoring the most points in the ski jump from the 142 metre Large Hill.
With each point translating into a four-second advantage at the start of the cross-country, Frenzel set off 24 seconds behind Watabe, with Rydzek a further seven seconds back and Riessle another three.
As Watabe and Riiber fought each other for the lead, the three Germans closed inexorably on them, and by two-thirds into the 10km race they had closed the gap with their rivals.
On the final lap, the Germans burst through and it was Rydzek who proved too powerful in the sprint. Riiber ended up fourth and Watabe fifth.
It was the first time Germany had won a gold medal in the Large Hill version of the Nordic Combined.
Last Wednesday’s Nordic Combined from the smaller Normal Hill was won by Frenzel, with Watabe taking silver and Austria’s Lukas Klapfer claiming bronze. (Reporting by Mark Trevelyan, editing by Ed Osmond)