ZHANGJIAKOU, China (Reuters) – The thrilling sprint finish to the ski race in Wednesday’s Nordic combined competition almost brought Norway’s Joergen Graabak more than a silver medal when his pregnant partner back home thought she might go into labour due to the excitement.
Graabak and Germany’s Vinzenz Geiger burst out of the pack on the final lap and engaged in a battle royal over the last kilometre, and the tension was so great as the race reached its climax that Ida Bekken thought the arrival of their son might be imminent.
“I was afraid the birth was about to start during the cross-country skiing, the pulse was at 200,” she told newspaper Verdens Gang.
Graabak, a double Olympic champion in 2014, was ninth after the ski jump section of the event, which meant starting a minute and 16 seconds after leader Ryota Yamamoto of Japan, with Geiger 10 seconds further back.
On a slow course, there was little to suggest that the pair could close the gap, but their late charge set up a dramatic finish to the normal hill/10 km competition that made it an instant classic, with Geiger winning by eight-tenths of a second.
“I am completely speechless over what he has done today, I’m so proud,” Bekken said. “He has worked so hard for this after a long time.”
Graabak told Verdens Gang that he was looking forward to the birth of their child and that Ida had played a big part in his success.
“She means everything. If I hadn’t had her support, this (the silver medal) would not have happened,” he said.
(Reporting by Philip O’Connor; Editing by Hugh Lawson)