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France’s Jason Lamy Chappuis (c) outlunges Austria’s Mario Stecher (l) for gold and Bjorn Kircheisen of Germany, who was third in the individual normal hill/10 k on Friday at the 2013 Nordic Combined World Championships in Val di Fiemme, Italy.

VAL DI FIEMME, Italy — After jumping to 11th on the first day of the Nordic Combined FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Predazzo, Jason Lamy Chappuis of France knew starting 1:13 minutes back in the 10-kilometer Gundersen that he could fight for the podium if everything went right Friday. The defending champion from 2011 World Championships in Oslo, Norway, he saw no reason why he shouldn’t fight for it again.

But gold? That was unexpected.

“I can’t believe it because after the jumping part, I was quite disappointed and I knew I had to do an awesome race to come back,” Lamy Chappuis told reporters after edging Austria’s Mario Stecher, who started second, by 0.2 seconds for the win. “I knew I could do probably a podium if I had a great race, but first place I couldn’t believe it.”

In a photo finish for second, Stecher edged Germany’s Björn Kircheilsen, who skied the second-fastest time at the Lago di Tesero cross-country stadium to rise from 12th to third overall. Also for Germany, Eric Frenzel was fourth (+0.5) after starting sixth, 0.41 seconds behind Norway’s Haavard Klemetsen. First in the jump with a distance of 103.5 meters on the 106-meter normal hill, Klemetsen ended up fifth overall (+16.2).

“We didn’t know until a few meters before the finish line who was going to win,” Lamy Chappuis recalled. “I saw Eric Frenzel really strong, then he collapsed a little bit earlier. I could push as hard as I could and I saw behind me they weren’t coming back, but it was a really long sprint to the finish line. I felt like I never could make it to the end.”

Leading the Americans in 14th, Bryan Fletcher improved from a 19th-place finish in the jump. He started 1:41 after Klemetsen and finished 1:01.2 behind the winner. Billy Demong rose to 23rd (+1:31.6) from 47th after starting nearly three minutes back and skiing the third-fastest 10 k. Taylor Fletcher was 25th for the U.S. after ranking 45th in the jump and racing to the ninth-fastest time, and Todd Lodwick was 32nd after starting in 30th.

“For Bryan it was a good day,” U.S. head coach Dave Jarrett said. “He skied well. Jumping-wise, we know he’s way better and he could’ve been up there with the others, but it was a hard day on the jumping hill, really low speed, really windy. It’s encouraging for Bryan, Bill and Taylor to have pretty much a sub-par jumping performance and be kind of in there, but we still need to improve on the jumping side to be fighting for the podium.”

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