Relay Preview: More Gold for Norway?

Relays fill the mid-week Olympic menu and both the men’s and women’s look like close competitions that will depend heavily on avoiding the penalty loop and good ski preparation in slow snow and tough Zhangjiakou tracks.

The men are up first, coming into the OWG, the World Cup Relay Score top four teams are Norway, ROC, France and Germany. Norway has three wins this season being the top team. The Norwegian quartet of Sturla Holm Laegreid, Vetle Sjaastad Christiansen, Tarjei and JT Boe are well-prepared for these Beijing OWG. They have used four, five and four spare rounds in their three relay wins, which says everything; this team knows how to hit targets. Norway looks like the Gold medalists. But then again, Laegreid had ten penalties in the pursuit…

Beyond Norway, it will likely be a free-for-all. Defending Olympic Champion Sweden has not been on the podium all season, so a top finish is a tall order for Sebastian Samuelsson and Co. The ROC team won in Ruhpolding with just four spare rounds, but so far in these Games, only Eduard Latypov and Maksim Tsvetkov seem to be on form. They need Alexander Loginov at his best to get a medal.

French Team up to the Task?

The French team, led by the seemingly unstoppable Quentin Fillon Maillet will be up to the task. They may not match the Norwegians but Simon Desthieux, Emilien Jacquelin, Fabien Claude and Fillon Maillet battle for the Silver medal. Likewise, for Germany_ although they have not won any individual medals so far, the Germans led by Benedikt Doll have been competitive all season in relays and should be in the mix.

There are two potential spoilers, Belarus and Italy. Belarus was third in Ruhpolding and Italy fourth. Both teams have strong legs provided by the likes of Anton Smolski and Lukas Hofer, but need a full team effort to crack the medals.

Can Sweden’s Women Top Their French Rivals?

The Women’s World Cup Relay Score looks different from the men’s with France, ROC, Sweden and Norway, respectively. The French ladies have two victories and two third places. Their “A-team” of Anais Chevalier-Bouchet, Chloe Chevalier (instead of Anais Bescond), Justine Braisaz Bouchet and Julia Simon showed their strength and potential with four spares in Ruhpolding, relegating Sweden with two spares to second. Yet, at this point of the Games, Sweden looks much stronger, particularly Elvira Oeberg plus her sister Hanna, Linn Persson and either Anna Magnusson or Mona Brorsson. They have performed consistently better than the French squad. See the women’s sprint: Elvira Oeberg 2nd, Magnusson 7th, Persson 12th and Hanna Oeberg 19th, compared to France with Bescond 9th, Simon 29th, Justine 48th and Anais Chevalier-Bouchet 68th.

The French team always rallies in the relay but right now they need a huge uptick on the shooting range to challenge what looks like rising Swedish team, that by the way, won Pyeongchang 2018 Silver medal.

Minor Miracle for Norway

After these two, it might take a minor miracle for Norway to win, unless Marte Olsbu Roeiseland can run two legs. They are a leg short of a winning team with Ingrid Landmark Tandrevold having left Beijing for further medical examinations after nearly collapsing in the pursuit. The German women look stronger suddenly with Vanessa Voigt on fire, Preuss improving, Hinz going 19-for-20 in the wind pursuit and 15 km Gold Medalist Herrmann always strong in relays. The highly ranked ROC has become the “wild card,” after not looking very sharp in the individual competitions in these Games.

It does not look like any of the women’s relay teams will run away from the field, but most likely several teams will battle for the medals in the anchor leg.

The Men Relay is currently scheduled for 7:30 (CET) on Tuesday, with the Women Relay following on 8:45 (CET) on Wednesday.

Photos; IBU/Christian Manzoni

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