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Ahead of Sochi, big ski wins for Germany, Austria and Slovenia

Eric Frenzel has led Germany to victory in the last Nordic combined World Cup team event before Sochi. In Slovenia, Japanese Olympic favorite Sara Takanashi suffered defeat just two weeks out from the Winter Games.

In perhaps a preview of the upcoming Sochi Winter Olympics, Germany's team of Tino Edelmann, Johannes Rydzek, Fabian Riessle and Frenzel sat in third place after the ski jump event, but made up a time difference of 28 seconds by completing the 4x5-kilometer cross-country race in 49 minutes, 34.3 seconds. Frenzel crossed the line 1.3 seconds ahead of the Frenchman Jason Lamy Chappuis.

Chappuis, Sebastien Lacroix, Maxime Laheurte and Francois Braud won the jump and started with a 17-second advantage over the Austrians Wilhelm Denifl, Marco Pichlmayer, Christoph Bieler and Mario Stecher, who finished third overall, exactly 2 seconds behind Germany.

Sunday will see an individual Gundersen event.

Austrian wins at home

In Kreischberg, Austria on Saturday, Alex Fiva of Switzerland won the final World Cup ski cross event before the Sochi Olympics and Ophelie David of France took the women's competition. Fiva defeated Johannes Rohrweck of Austria, Michael Schmid of Switzerland and Thomas Borge Lie of Norway in the final for his first victory of the season and sixth overall.

Victor Oehling Norberg of Sweden leads the men's World Cup standings with 319 points, only 3 clear of David Duncan of Canada and Andreas Matt of Austria, who share second. Germany's Daniel Bohnacker sits in a distant fourth place with 248.

On Saturday, Austria's Hannes Reichelt won the World Cup downhill in Kitzbuehel, making up for teammate Marcel Hirscher's surprise slalom loss to Germany's Felix Neureuther Friday.

"For an Austrian ski racer to win in Kitzbuehel is a dream," Reichelt said. "It's beautiful. There were tears in my eyes during the flower ceremony. It's very special. "

Upset in Slovenia

The 17-year-old Sara Takanashi, who'd won eight of nine previous World Cup rounds, finished second place on the hill at Planica in Slovenia to Austria's Daniela Irascho-Stolz.

"I'm not satisfied with my jumps today," Takanashi said. "Tomorrow I will try to avoid the mistakes. The hill here in Planica looks like the one in Sochi. Both are very modern facilities."

Despite the setback, Takanashi, the winner of 16 World Cup events in her career, remains in charge of the overall standings with a 334-point lead over Vogt.

Unsurprised in Japan

If a Japanese skier failed to live up to form in Slovenia, a Slovene did not return the favor in Japan. Peter Prevc lived up to his favorite status as two leading jumps secured victory in the ski jumping World Cup in Japan.

Prevc's second win of the season puts him top of the World Cup rankings with 732 points, ahead of Poland's Kamil Stoch, who did not jump in Japan, on 721. Kasai sits at fifth overall.

mkg/slk (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)

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