Ackermann Wins 15K Nordic Combined

Ackermann Wins 15K Nordic Combined{mosimage}OBERSTDORF, Germany (AP) Ronny Ackermann mounted a surprising charge on the final downhill to defend his title at the Nordic World Championships in a thrilling 15-kilometer race Friday.

The German finished the tough, hilly course in 38 minutes, 56.2 seconds, edging countryman Bjoern Kircheisen by 1.4 seconds to give host Germany its first medals at the two-week event.

Austria’s Felix Gottwald, the 2000-01 overall World Cup winner, finished third, 3.4 seconds behind.

After the front three skiers pulled away from the pack, Kircheisen and Gottwald were caught off guard when Ackermann suddenly burst through the inside from third place on the final downhill to win.

“I wanted the surprise effect and I was successful. This was the craziest, most furious race of my life,” Ackermann said. “The blowing wind on the jumps, there were eight or 10 of us racing together for all those kilometers _ I knew I had to attack.”

Hannu Manninen, Ackermann’s biggest rival, again came up empty-handed at a major championships.

The Finn, dominating the World Cup with eight wins, has collected several team medals at the Olympics and worlds, but not one individual medal in his 14-year career. He finished ninth, 52.8 back.

Manninen said he will try again in the 7.5K sprint, the other individual title handed out in Nordic Combined at the worlds.

“I’m not disappointed, but if I don’t medal there _ then I will be disappointed,” the Finn said.

Ackermann collected two silvers at the last worlds in 2003 along with his gold and two more at the Salt Lake City Olympics a year earlier. He also has won the overall World Cup title twice.

“This was my biggest victory, to show I could do it again, in front of this stage,” the German said, referring to his home crowd.

Manninen may have been the biggest victim of the gusting winds that hampered the two jumps before the cross country race. Results from the second run were nullified because of the conditions and the jump was done again.

The big Finn, not known for his leaping ability, uncorked a 94.5-meter effort on his first try at the second jump. When it was done again, his wobbly leap was 10 meters shorter and he went into the cross country trailing by 2:40.

American Todd Lodwick, third in the World Cup standings, couldn’t hold a promising position after the jumps. He was eighth, best among the medal contenders, but faded to finish 21st, 2:04.1 back.

Bill Demong was 12th, the 24-year-old American’s best finish at a major championships.

Another American medal hopeful, John Spillane, dropped out because of an illness. He stunned the Europeans by taking sprint gold at the 2003 worlds in Val di Fiemme, Italy, the first for the U.S. team at either the Olympics or world championships.

Copyright © 2005 The Associated Press

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