Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics: Russians hold off Norway and France for relay gold
The Russian team opened up a lead on the first leg of the men's relay and then held on for the Olympic gold medal
Just like in the women's cross-country ski race, the Russian team opened up a lead on the first leg of the men's relay on Sunday and then held on for the Olympic gold medal. Sergey Ustiugov maintained more than a minute lead on the last lap over the two-man chasing group of Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo of Norway and Maurice Manificat of France. Ustiugov grabbed a flag on his way to the finish line and met his teammates with an embrace, winning the 10-kilometer relay 1 hour, 54 minutes, 50.7 seconds. Klaebo pulled away from Manificat for the silver, 1:07.2 back. France took third, 1:16.4 behind the Russians.
Alexey Chervotkin skied the first leg for the Russians and opened that all-important gap. "We tried to achieve it, and for several years we haven't been able to," Chervotkin said. "Today everything aligned. Everything was super. The weather seemed to be hard and there was snow but it was in our favor so everything was great." Emil Iversen, who skied their first leg for Norway, said he knew what the Russians were capable of. "I knew that I needed to stay with them, but I wasn't strong enough so it's a bad start for the relay when I end up second to them. It's hard to take it back," Iversen said. "But I tried my best. We have to be happy with silver. It's also a good result."
Snowy conditions made the ski tracks slow, especially on the first two classic ski legs. Leaf-blowers were used to clear out the snow. By contrast, the winning time in the four-man relay at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics was more than 20 minutes quicker. Paal Golberg, who skied the second leg for Norway, said the race was challenging "but we did our best." "The course was tough before and with the snow and wind today, it was even tougher," Golberg said. "The four Russian guys were better so just take the hat off to them and try to be satisfied with the silver."
Chervotkin led off for the Russians, with Alexander Bolshunov skiing the second classic leg. Denis Spitsov and Ustiugov took the two freestyle legs. All four are in the top 12 of the overall World Cup standings. Bolshunov finished his second leg in 59:56 and had about a minute lead over Norway, Sweden, Finland, France and Germany. That five-man chase group stayed about 50 seconds behind Spitsov until Finland fell off the pace. When Spitsov handed off to Ustiugov, Klaebo was 44.9 seconds behind. On the last lap, Russia held a lead of 1:04 over France and Norway, with Sweden 1:28 behind. The Swedes finished fourth.
Norway lead off with Iversen, who has not yet raced at the Beijing Olympics and is ranked 42nd in the World Cup standings. Missing from their lineup was Erik Valnes, who is ranked third in the World Cup and finished 15th in the 15-kilometer classic race last week. Next was Golberg, who was 11th in the 15-kilometer classic race. Hans Chister Holund, who was fourth in that race, skied the third leg ahead of Klaebo. The same four skiers won gold for Norway in the relay at the 2021 world championships in Germany. The four-man relay began as a mass-start with 15 racers. Each athlete skied three laps on a 3.3-kilometer (2-mile) course.