Norway Doubles Up with IBU World Championship Men’s Relay Gold Medal
Vetle Sjaastad Christiansen, taking over the anchor leg for teammate Johannes Thingnes Boe was just as good as his teammate, securing the IBU World Championships Men’s Relay Gold medal for Norway in 1:12:27.4. Christiansen and teammates Johannes, Tarjei Boe and Sturla Holm Laegreid used eight spare rounds to claim the title, giving a Relay Gold medal double dip today. Sweden, with seven spares, and a huge anchor leg by Sebastian Samuelsson moved from sixth at the last exchange, 1:16.9 back to the Silver medal 33.1 seconds back. The RBU with five spares won the Bronze medal, 50.9 seconds back.
Secret Anchor Sprinter Christiansen
Christiansen in his first appearance at this year’s IBU WCH at Pokljuka was the surprise anchor leg, moving Johannes and Tarjei back on spot from their usual places. “I do not think many of the fans expected me to go on the last leg today. We said yesterday to the Norwegian journalists that Johannes would go the last leg. We wanted to keep it a little bit secret because you know both Seb and Jacquelin have sprinted down Johannes in the last races, so wanted to try me for the sprint since the sprint here is pretty fast. My teammates kept me in another league for the last leg. I could just enjoy this moment in front. It was a fantastic feeling! I didn’t need to sprint, but maybe next time, I hope to meet them there!”
Birthday Boy Sturla
Leadoff leg Laegreid who turned 24 today appreciated his Gold medal birthday present. “The guys knew exactly what I wanted for my birthday so thank you!” Regarding his great leadoff leg strategy, he added, “My first strategy was just to have fun because it’s World Champs; it’s a relay and I get to go with these guys. I just enjoyed myself on the skis but I also saw the opportunity after standing to get a gap and did my best to keep it.”
France, with one penalty and eleven spares finished fourth, 1:02 back. Ukraine with the day’s best shooting of four spares, finished fifth, 1:12.8 back while Italy with two penalties and fourteen spares was sixth, 1:35.5 back.
Big Lead by Laegreid
The twenty-seven men’s relay teams had the same glorious weather as the women in the late morning, with about the same wind conditions but the shooting range completely shrouded in the late afternoon shadow. Laegreid led the first loop but with a spare round in prone left the stadium in third; Guigonnat was in the top spot, two seconds faster. Before the standing stage, Laegreid was back in control; one fast spare round and his five targets were closed, with Belarus and Ukraine 10 seconds back. The Norwegian stretched his lead to 22 seconds by the time he tagged second leg Tarjei, with Belarus and France side-by-side in second and third and Italy a second farther back.
Tarjei Stays in Front
Quentin Fillon Maillet, Lukas Hofer, and Benjamin Weger moved into the three spots behind Tarjei midway through the first loop, but remained over 20 seconds back. Tarjei needed two spares in prone but was gone before anyone else fired. The three chasers all used a spares with Weger and Fillon Maillet getting away a step faster than the Italian, 24 seconds back. The Norwegian veteran used all three spares before closing his fifth target; Weger needed just one to get away in second while clean-shooting Dmytro Pidruchnyi moved into third with Fillon Maillet ending up on the penalty loop. Tarjei tagged his brother with a 12 second lead over Italy’s Tommaso Giacomel with Ukraine’s Artem Pryma next and Slovenia in fourth after a sterling leg by Jakov Fak.
Johannes’ Fast Pace
As usual, Johannes pushed the pace, adding 10 seconds in the first 2 km. His first four prone shots were dead center, but needed a spare to close the last target. The 20-year-old Italian went 5-for-5 to move 7 seconds back with Pryma now 17 seconds off the leader’s pace. Johannes shot fast and clean in standing, pushing his lead out to 31 seconds over Pryma who matched, while Alexander Loginov with one spare moved the RBU into third, with the Italian after a penalty loop next, but the pair was 52 seconds back. Johannes continued to press the pace to tag Christiansen 48 seconds ahead of the field. Anton Dudchenko followed with Eduard Latypov in third 59 seconds back with Emilien Jacquelin and Sebastian Samuelsson at 1:16 back in fifth and sixth.
Christiansen Secures Gold Medal
Christiansen easily cleaned prone with five shots and was gone. Latypov did the same, going out comfortably in second, 54 seconds back. Jacquelin and Samuelsson and Dominik Windisch matched, all locked together at 1:17 back. Christiansen shot fast but needed two spares to clean standing, securing the Gold medal. Latypov used a spare round to clean but Samuelsson went 5-for-5 to leave just 3 seconds later.
Waving, Pointing and a Swedish Flag
The last loop was simply a victory lap for the Norwegian who skied easily into the stadium waving at the digital fans and pointing at his waiting teammates. Samuelsson immediately passed Latypov and buried him on the last loop to cross waving a miniature Swedish flag and bowing to the same digital fans. Latypov held on with the Bronze medal going to the RBU.
Last Loop Energy Brings Swedish Record
Sweden’s Silver medal broke their record for most IBU WCH medals, raising the bar to six for future teams. Samuelsson said he felt tired after so many competitions this week, but rose to the occasion. “I feel tired after so much racing but today I got a nice start from the other guys. It was against France and Italy; we were playing at each other a little bit; no one wanted to be in front. When you shoot so fast and clean in the last standing you get a lot of energy for the final loop. It was just a nice feeling to go out knowing that we might have a medal.”
RBU’s Clean Shooting Strategy
Loginov who put the RBU into the medal fight, said, “On my leg, I understood that the main thing was to shoot clean and not to let the rivals get too far. That was my strategy.” Anchor Latypov added, “I also knew I had to shot clean. Unfortunately, I had to reload once in standing. Anyways, it was quite a good shooting. It was really tough on the final leg but I tried to do everything I could. I want to congratulate and say thank you to the whole team because we did a great job today and won a medal.”
Photos: IBU/Thibaut, Manzoni