Eric Frenzel wasn't about to let a half-minute deficit deny him of another taste of Olympic glory.
Fifth after the ski jumping stage of the Nordic combined on Wednesday, the 29-year-old German started 38 seconds off the leader and surged ahead of Akito Watabe on the last uphill of the 10-kilometer cross-country race to defend his title in the normal hill event at the Pyeongchang Games.
"I felt from the get-go that I could get the gold," Frenzel said. "I got in a good group and knew how to keep a check on the others so I was very confident and am very happy with this result."
With just over 1 kilometer remaining, it looked like Watabe might give Japan its first gold of the games. But Frenzel powered ahead of the World Cup leader on the hill for Germany's sixth gold in Pyeongchang.
Watabe finished 4.8 seconds behind for the silver while Lukas Klapfer of Austria took the bronze.
"Just before the last hill, I thought I had a shot at gold," Watabe said. "But when Eric started to climb the hill like that I knew I wasn't going to get it."
Nordic combined features ski jumping and a cross-country ski race. The athlete who wins the ski jumping stage starts first followed by the remaining athletes in their order of finish.
Franz-Josef Rehrl was the surprise winner of the ski jumping phase with a leap of 112 meters. That gave him a 15-second head start over Jarl Magnus Riiber, but the Austrian faded early in the cross-country race and finished 13th.
Frenzel took the lead midway through the cross-country race, leading a pack that included Watabe, Riiber and Klapfer.
"My plan was to attack on that last hill," Frenzel said. "I needed to tear a hole in that last group and was able to do that."
While Frenzel hasn't been as dominant on the World Cup this season with only one win, he proved again he can never be counted out. Over a 10-year career on the World Cup circuit, Frenzel has 42 individual wins and eight team titles to go with three previous Olympic medals, which includes team silver in Sochi and bronze in Vancouver.
He won the World Cup title for five consecutive years from 2013 and has five world championship titles, yet many still considered Watabe the favorite going into Wednesday's event.
The Japanese skier picked up his third straight World Cup win on Jan. 28 and became only the second athlete to sweep the three-day Seefeld Triple event in Austria.
Frenzel became the third athlete to successfully defend his Olympic title in the event after Ulrich Wehling and Johan Groettumsbraten.
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