Instead of Riiber against Frenzel now Geiger against Lamparter?
When the combined athletes had their last World Cup before the Games behind them, it was clear: It will be extremely close competitions at the Olympic Games in Beijing. The superstar Jarl Magnus Riiber, who returned to the World Cup after his injury, was no longer as dominant as he was in December, Vinzenz Geiger, old champion Joergen Graabak, Johannes Lamparter and also Eric Frenzel came closer or passed.
Days later, everything is different: Corona has decimated the field of top performers. Four of the athletes ranked in the top seven in the overall World Cup have either tested positive or are in quarantine: Riiber, Estonian llves and the two Germans Eric Frenzel and Terence Weber. With the consequence that before the first competition in the mountains northwest of Beijing, a completely new constellation has emerged. One that no one who even remotely cares about sporting fair play has even longed for. But it is also one that completely reshuffles the cards. The loss of some of the favorites has increased the chances of those athletes who were lucky enough not to be infected or to have been in the vicinity of someone who tested positive. And so much boils down to the duel between Vinzenz Geiger and Johannes Lamparter. The Austrian is the World Cup leader, but this is also due to the fact that dominator Riiber had to miss several races due to injury. However, this does not change the fact that the two-time World Champion from Oberstdorf 2021 was able to get close to his Norwegian rival. Lamparter completed an uphill run, the season started tough for him, but from week to week the just 20-year-old from Hall in Tyrol, who last year managed the feat of first winning the junior world title and then performing in the adults, improved.
The Austrian's toughest competitor is likely to be a German. Or even three? Johannes Rydzek recently got back on track, but still lacked a bit in the jumping. Julian Schmid is eighth in the overall World Cup and convinced with great consistency. And then there is Vinzenz Geiger. In contrast to Lamparter, he is already experiencing his second Olympic Games in China, won gold with the team in 2018 and has improved even more since then. After the Games, Geiger will certainly be the new figurehead in Hermann Weinbuch's team, but he is already the athlete with the most attractive performance in the season so far. The athlete from Oberstdorf finished almost half of the 15 World Cups so far this winter with a place on the podium, jumps with an amazing consistency, skates at the highest level and is also very strong in sprinting. These are qualities that Lamparter also claims for himself. So it is quite possible that the two young men will usher in a new era in the Nordic combined in China. But it's also possible that the currently unavailable top athletes will be back in action in the other two Olympic events. Whether the form is still or already right again after the sedentary time in quarantine and isolation, however, is one of the questions that cannot be answered at the moment, just like the one about the timely return or the question whether the virus is now finally out of the camp of the Nordic combined athletes.
Pictures: K. Voigt Fotografie