KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — With the gold medal on the line, Severin Freund made his final jump, then hoped it would be enough to give Germany victory in the team large hill ski jumping competition Monday at the Sochi Olympics.
Flying off the hill was the easy part.
"I thought only about what I had to do," Freund said. "The worst part of it was to wait. It seemed to me that the waiting (for the final score) was very, very long."
When the result flashed up on the scoreboard at the RusSki Gorki Jumping Center, Germany had edged Austria by 2.7 points. That ended Austria's lengthy winning streak in the event — it had won gold in the last two Olympics and hadn't lost a team large hill competition since the 2005 world championships.
Germany, represented by Andreas Wank, Marinus Kraus, Andres Wellinger and Freund, had won its third gold in the Olympic event, and there were hugs all around in the landing area.
Austria was represented by Michael Hayboeck, Thomas Morgenstern, Thomas Diethart and Gregor Schlierenzauer.
Japan, with Reruhi Shimizu, Taku Takeuchi, Daiki Ito and large hill silver medalist Noriaki Kasai, won bronze.
With the bronze, 41-year-old Kasai won a team medal 20 years after his team silver at Lillehammer in 1994.
"The individual was more precious, but the team is more important," Kasai said. "I actually wanted gold, but the color doesn't mean anything anymore."
Wank won silver with the German team in Vancouver; his teammates all won their first Olympic medals in Sochi.
"I've got silver and now gold," Wank said. "I think it was really close competition ... now we will make a big party."
The silver medal was bittersweet for three-time Olympic champion Morgenstern, who was badly injured in a fall in early January and almost didn't make it to Sochi. He then failed to qualify for the final round of the individual large hill event, finishing 40th.
Norway, the birthplace of Nordic combined, but a nation that has never won an Olympic team title in ski jumping, led after the opening two groups of the first round. But Austria edged ahead on Diethart's jump of 136 meters, leaving the defending champions in first place with one group to go in the opening round.
Germany took the lead for the first time — by 2.5 points over Austria, with Japan third — after the first round when the field was cut from 12 countries to eight.
At that stage, double gold medal winner Kamil Stoch and Poland were in fourth — where they finished — more than 18 points behind Japan.
Austria regained the lead on a jump of 130 meters by Hayboeck after the first set of jumpers in the final round, pushing Germany back into second. The two countries dueled for the rest of the final round.
"I'm happy with the medal. It's been hard these last days," said Schlierenzauer, who finished seventh in the large hill individual event. "We had some problems, but it was very, very close ... four or five points is really nothing."
After Poland in fourth, it was Slovenia, Norway, Czech Republic and Finland.
"I thought our performance today would be better, but we made too many mistakes," Stoch said. "It wasn't to be."
The United States team of Nicholas Alexander of Brattleboro, Vt., Anders Johnson of Park City, Utah, Nicholas Fairall of Andover, N.H., and Peter Frenette of Saranac Lake, N.Y., failed to advance past the first round and finished 10th. All but Fairall wore fake red, white and blue moustaches for the occasion.
Also failing to advance from the first round were ninth-place Russia, 11th-place South Korea, and last-place Canada. The third Canadian jumper, Matthew Rowley, crashed on his landing but walked away more angry with himself than hurt.