USA finishes fifth

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

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.