USA finishes fifth

Updated: February 23, 2005, 2:22 PM ET
Associated Press

OBERSTDORF, Germany -- Petter Tande and Kristian Hammer helped Norway win the team Nordic combined event Wednesday at the Nordic Skiing World Championships.

Norway took a comfortable lead following the ski jumping portion, which including a stunning 136.5-meter leap by Tande and a 131-meter effort from Havard Klemetsen.

"It was a perfect day for us," Klemetsen said. "We hadn't led after the ski jumping for several years. The guys jumped like clockwork."

The Norwegians remained in the lead throughout the 20-kilometer cross-country relay as Tande, Klemetsen, Magnus Moan and Hammer all were untouchable and finished in 49 minutes, 45.5 seconds.

Germany, the pre-race favorite, rallied from fifth place after the ski jumping to finish second, 7.1 seconds back. Defending champion Austria took the bronze, 7.4 seconds behind.

The United States, third after the ski jump, dropped to fifth after Johnny Spillane -- troubled by a bad back -- fell behind Austrian anchor Felix Gottwald and Finland's Hannu Mainninen in the final leg. The Americans finished 1:29.4 behind.

Finland was fourth, 1:09.5 back, but filed a protest in a bid to have the Austrians disqualified.

The Finns claimed Christoph Bieler took a short cut into the exchange lane on the second leg, cutting through some markers instead of going around them. The protest was turned down because Finland finished more than a minute behind the Austrians and a 2-meter shortcut wouldn't have affected the outcome.

Germany entered the relay with a 1:26 deficit, despite fielding Ronny Ackermann and Bjoern Kircheisen, who won gold and silver, respectively, in Friday's individual event.

Kircheisen delivered the team's best effort in the ski jumping and brought the hosts from fourth to second in the penultimate leg of the relay.

Ackermann, who was disappointing in the jump with efforts of 122.0 and 121.5 meters, showed his grit in the relay, edging Gottwald for the silver with a final sprint finish.

"We're very happy with the silver," German coach Hermann Weinbuch said. "We just have to acknowledge that Norway was a little but better today."

The Americans had a 36-second deficit going into the relay after a strong team performance in the jumping, highlighted by Bill Demong's 129-meter effort.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press