Austria defends Nordic combined team title

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Austria held off a challenge from United States' Bill Demong to defend their Olympics title of nordic combined team Tuesday at the Whistler Olympic Park.

The quartet of Bernhard Gruber, David Kreiner, Felix Gottwald and Mario Stecher started the 4x5km cross country stage 36 seconds behind ski jump winners Finland.

But after Gottwald had put the defending champions in the third leg, Stecher held off United Stats' world 10km large hill champion Bill Demong to seal gold in 49 minutes 31.6 seconds.

Demong pushed the Austrian close to capture United States' second ever Olympic Nordic combined medal, but fell back in the sprint finish to score silver, 5.2 seconds back.

Germany lay fifth after the ski jump but gradually cut their way through the field to capture bronze, 19.5 seconds down on the winners.

The Americans were lying second after the ski jump stage but with just two seconds separating themselves and Finland.

But while Brett Camerota took them to the front of the pack and double world champion Todd Lodwick maintained that advantage, Johnny Spillane, who won the United States' first Olympic Nordic combined medal in the 10km normal hill event earlier in the Games, had less than a second in hand on Austria's Felix Gottwald.

And the Austrian, who collected his seventh Olympic medal with the win, effortlessly pushed away from the American as a two-horse race quickly became a done deal.

But the US refused to throw in the towel, and Demong set to work on cutting down the 14 seconds gap between Stecher and himself.

But Stecher was playing the waiting game, and after trailing Demong up the final incline, he swept past him in the final straight with the American fatigued and helpless to prevent an Austrian gold.

"I just thought I could follow him up the last hill," said Stecher. "I said it's a 50-50 chance. It was my only possibility to win this race."

"He (Demong) was going to the inside, I was going to the outside. The skis were a little bit better today."

For Gruber, it's his first Olympic Games, which turned out to give him gold.

"It is my first start in the Olympic Games and now we have a team gold medal. You have dreams for so many years to fight for this and now it is there. I am so happy. It's unbelievable, it's amazing," Gruber said.

"I am strong on the flat parts and today I was also very strong on the uphills. I had much power and used it and closed the gap."

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