Olympics-Cross-country skiing-Russians master conditions and crush field for relay gold


2022 Beijing Olympics – Cross-Country Skiing – Men’s 4 x 10km Relay – National Cross-Country Centre, Zhangjiakou, China – February 13, 2022. Sergey Ustiugov of the Russian Olympic Committee waves his national flag as he crosses the finish line. REUTERS/Marko Djurica

February 13, 2022

By Philip O’Connor and Mitch Phillips

ZHANGJIAKOU, China (Reuters) -The team representing the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) made the most of a big lead built up in the first half of the race to storm to victory in a punishing, snow-lashed men’s 4×10 km relay at the Beijing Olympics on Sunday.

The ROC team finished one minute 7.2 seconds ahead of Norway, with France picking up a third successive bronze after a dogged display, 9.2 seconds further back.

Whirling winds whipped up the fresh snow, reducing visibility to the point where the stadium floodlights had to be turned on so the smattering of fans and TV viewers could see the action.

The first two racers in each team used the classic style and the second pair skied freestyle, each for three laps of 3.3 km.

Just as their victorious women’s team did on Saturday, the Russians made an early break as Alexey Chervotkin built up a lead of 12 seconds by the halfway point of his leg.

By the time he handed over to Alexander Bolshunov, who won gold in last week’s skiathlon and silver in the 15-km classic, the race was all but over and Bolshunov continued to set a searing pace.

Norway’s Paal Golberg broke away from the German and Italian racers on a one-man mission to rein in the Russian, but by the third leg the Norwegians were dragged back into a five-team knot of chasers alongside Sweden, Finland, France and Germany.

The Finnish and German challenges melted away before the fourth leg, leaving Norway, Sweden and a stubborn French team to fight it out for the remaining two medals.

The Swedes were next to drop, leaving 2022 Olympic sprint champion Johannes Klaebo to edge Frenchman Maurice Manificat, who had to settle for a hat-trick of bronze medals in the event.

Far in front, Sergey Ustiugov was gliding across the line waving the flag of the ROC.

For the Russians it was a case of going one better than in 2014, when they were beaten by Sweden on the home snow of Sochi, and 2018, when they took silver behind Klaebo and Norway with three of the same team as on duty on Sunday.

This time it was new man Ustiugov who was given the honour of securing the gold, their first in the event since triumphing as the Soviet Union in 1980.

“We were aiming for this. We tried to achieve it, and for several years we haven’t been able to,” said Chervotkin. “Today everything aligned. The weather seemed to be hard and there was snow but it was in our favour so everything was great.”

The Norwegians accepted that they were second-best but were happy with their performance. “It was tough conditions. We weren’t good enough to fight with the Russians today, but everyone gave their best. We should be happy with a silver,” Holund said.

Klaebo added: “Doing it as a team is the beautiful part of it, so it’s always fun to race the relay. We all need to be satisfied with today’s result.

“Some of us need to start preparing for the next race but still we’re going to enjoy this evening.”

(Reporting by Philip O’Connor, Mitch Phillips; editing by Clare Fallon, Robert Birsel)





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