- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 11, 2014

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) - Haavard Klemetsen of Norway continued to show impressive ski jumping form in Nordic combined training Tuesday, a day before the Olympic gold medal final on the individual normal hill.

Klemetsen, in third place in the World Cup standings coming into Sochi, won four of eight training rounds on the jumping hill in the past three days, including two Tuesday.

Gold medal favorite Eric Frenzel of Germany, a runaway leader in the World Cup this season, was second to Klemetsen in the second run before both passed on the third.

Jason Lamy Chappuis of France, the defending champion from Vancouver in 2010, was tied for ninth and 15th in two jumps before also passing on the final round.

On Wednesday, a 10-kilometer race follows the ski jumping portion on a course adjacent to the ski hill - a first at any Olympics.

The lower altitude of the course, however, has made the snow often slushy and soft, which favors lighter and stronger skiers who can glide on the surface easier.

Wilhelm Denifl of Austria, ninth in the World Cup standings, said the cross-country course, which is only 2.5 kilometers long, could get quite chopped up in the gold final by the time the skiers make their fourth circuit.

“There are 50 people pushing, and there could be a lot of ruts,” Denifl said. “But last year in the test event here, it was like that in the training, but perfect on the comp day. So we will see.”

Akito Watabe of Japan, in second place behind Frenzel in the World Cup standings, says he’ll need to have a better jump than the German if he has any hopes of winning gold. “I’m not faster than him in the cross-country part. … To beat him, I need to start ahead of him,” he said.

Frenzel said the cross-country course was inconsistent.

“It’s a bit slow. … The track is new snow, old snow. It is not the same on the whole track - difficult with long, strong hills,” he said.

“It’s better for those athletes who have the most endurance. If you are too fast in the first kilometer, that’s not good. You must go a really good tempo the whole track.”

Todd Lodwick of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, appearing in his sixth Olympics and the U.S. flagbearer at the opening ceremony, said the course looks a lot different away from the jumping hill.

“You guys get to see the nice, pristine snow here, but it’s dirty out back,” Lodwick said. “The longevity, glide of the skis is going to be the key. This course is going to eat people up big time, but I enjoy this.”

Individual competition in Nordic combined uses the Gundersen method, in place since the Calgary Games in 1988 and named for its creator, Norway’s Gunnar Gundersen.

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