By David Ljunggren
ROSA KHUTOR, Russia (Reuters) - An 18-year-old Olympic debutant helped propel Germany to a dramatic victory over defending champions Austria in the men's ski jumping competition at the Sochi Games on Monday.
In a see-saw battle that saw the lead change hands several times, Austria held a tiny 0.3 point lead over the Germans with just two jumps left after a fine effort by Thomas Morgenstern, who is still recovering from two bad crashes.
But the Germans grabbed the advantage through 18-year-old Andreas Wellinger and won the gold on the final jump of the evening by Severin Freund, who leapt 131 meters.
Germany ended on 1,041.1 points compared to 1,038.4 for Austria. The elated German quartet jumped up and down and hugged each other after the result flashed up on the scoreboard.
Japan finished well behind in third place, earning a bronze for 41-year-old Noriaki Kasai just days after he won a silver in the large hill individual event.
For the Austrians, who won the team gold in 2006 and 2010, the silver was compensation for a bad two weeks in which the squad underperformed badly.
The Austrians had steamrollered their opponents in 2010 but there was tension in the Russian night air right from the start on Monday.
Norway took the lead in the first round after a monster jump of 137.5 meters by Anders Bardal but quickly fell behind.
The Germans edged ahead on the fourth and final jump in the first round. Austria retook the lead after the fifth jump and were still just ahead after the sixth.
For Morgenstern, the medal was his fourth at the Olympics after two golds in 2006 and one in 2010.
(Reporting by David Ljunggren)