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Nordic combined: Akito Watabe ties Japanese record with 19th World Cup win

Winner Akito Watabe of Japan reacts after finishing the Nordic Combined 10km Cross Country skiing at the FIS World Cup Lahti Ski Games in Lahti, Finland, on Jan. 24, 2021. (Markku Ulander/Lehtikuva via AP)
Winner Akito Watabe of Japan, left, and third-place Ryota Yamamoto of Japan celebrate on the podium after the Nordic Combined 10km Cross Country skiing at the FIS World Cup Lahti Ski Games in Lahti, Finland, on Jan. 24, 2021. (Markku Ulander/Lehtikuva via AP)
Akito Watabe competes in the Viessmann FIS Nordic Combined World Cup Lahti on Jan. 23, 2021, in Lahti, Finland. (NordicFocus/Getty/Kyodo)

BERLIN (Kyodo) -- Akito Watabe on Sunday claimed his first individual Nordic combined skiing World Cup victory of the season, and 19th overall, to tie the all-time record for wins on the circuit by a Japanese skier.

    With his win in Lahti, Finland, the two-time Olympic silver medalist equaled the mark set by former great Kenji Ogiwara.

    Watabe was a comfortable winner, finishing 10.8 seconds ahead of Norway's Jarl Magnus Riiber, the two-time defending World Cup overall champion. Japan's Ryota Yamamoto earned his maiden World Cup podium in third, 25.1 seconds behind Watabe.

    Yamamoto was the best jumper, flying 126 meters and earning 132.3 points. He claimed a head start of one second on Watabe, who recorded 129.5 meters and 132.1 points.

    Watabe and Yamamoto stayed at the head of the field until the 5-kilometer point of the race, when Riiber managed to close a 28-second gap. But the 32-year-old Watabe broke away over the final 5 km to claim his third career win in Lahti.

    "I'm really satisfied with my performance on the hill and track, so (it was) a perfect day today," Watabe said.

    The 2017-18 overall World Cup winner said he made his move after sensing Riiber had been struggling to keep pace.

    "When he caught up to us, he tried to slow down. I saw that, and I tried to attack. Maybe he was tired at that time, and I was able to break away from him," Watabe said.

    Yamamoto managed to hold off fast-finishing German Johannes Rydzek to take third by a margin of 3.8 seconds.

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