VAL DI FIEMME, Italy (AP) — Eric Frenzel won an individual Nordic combined event Thursday for Germany's first gold medal of the world championships, beating Bernhard Gruber of Austria by 36.7 seconds.

Defending champion Jason Lamy Chappuis of France was third, 37.2 seconds behind Frenzel, claiming his third medal of the championships.

"I feel really really nice," Frenzel said. "It's such a great day for me. I had such an amazing jump and then felt really strong on the track. It's a great day!"

Akito Watabe lost out in the final sprint for a medal, finishing fourth, just over a second behind Lamy Chappuis.

The 24-year-old Frenzel led from start to finish in the cross-country after earning 144.1 points with a jump of 138.5 meters on the large hill.

He started 14 seconds ahead of nearest challenger Cristoph Bieler and soon extended his lead to nearly half a minute.

Behind him a chasing pack of 11 athletes formed to battle for silver and bronze.

Frenzel led by more than 48 seconds at the halfway stage and increased his advantage to more than a minute before slowing down on the final straight to attach a German flag to his ski pole and wave to the crowd as he crossed the line.

It was Frenzel's second world title, after winning the normal hill event two years ago. He missed out on a medal in this year's event by half a second.

"It was probably the best jump of my life," Frenzel added. "I am overwhelmed. It was hard after the first events didn't go as expected."

Lamy Chappuis started in 10th, more than a minute behind Frenzel and did well to catch the chasing pack. But he lost the battle for a medal to Gruber in the sprint.

Gruber had started the race in sixth, 33 seconds behind Frenzel.

"After jumping I felt really good and then I was a bit disappointed that I was not further ahead," Gruber said. "I thought 'OK, it's going to be a really tough race.'

"In the last lap it was a really fast pace and it was really hard for me but I thought 'OK, it's really hard for them too,' so I stayed behind a bit and then in the last uphill I attacked. The finish line seemed such a long way away but I kept fighting and fighting and I'm really happy."

Lamy Chappuis started 11th after the normal hill on Friday and made up time to win the event. He also led France to victory in the team competition.

"I tried (to come back again)," he said. "But I felt a bit tired on the last lap and I'd used a lot of energy on the first two races. But I'm really satisfied with third place."

Olympic champion Bill Demong of the United States had the fastest time in the cross-country phase, with compatriot Taylor Fletcher second fastest, but both had too much time to make up.

Demong finished in 15th, with Fletcher 17th.