Norway Roars Back to win Beijing Men’s Relay

Norwegian anchor Vetle Sjaastad Christiansen needing just ten shots to close his ten targets, brought Norway from 43 seconds back to the Gold medal in the men’s 4 X 7.5 km relay this afternoon at the Beijing Olympic Winter Games in a time of 1:19:50.2 His perfect shooting allowed the Norwegian squad of Christiansen, Sturla Holm Laegreid, Tarjei Boe and Johannes Thingnes Boe, with one penalty and seven spare rounds to overtake the ROC as their anchor leg, Eduard Latypov used all three spare rounds, picking up two penalty loops. The Gold medal was Norway’s first in the men’s relay since 2010. Tarjei Boe also ran the second leg on that Gold-medal team. Christiansen’s anchor leg brought him his first-ever Olympic medal in his first OWG. France, anchored by Quentin Fillon Maillet had nine spare rounds, taking the Silver medal, 27.4 seconds back. The Silver medal gave Fillon Maillet his fifth medal of these Games, an all-time French record as well as becoming the first-ever biathlete to win five medals in a single OWG. Fabien Claude won first-ever OWG medal. ROC, with two penalties and six spare rounds won the Bronze medal, 45.3 seconds back. Said Karimulla Khalili and Maksim Tsvetkov won their first-ever OWG medals today.

Header iconBeijing 2022 Men's Relay

Christiansen "from completely defensive to completely attacking”

Christiansen called his anchor leg a strange situation where his attitude changed when he came to the standing stage. “I felt really calm despite the strange situation we were in. My feeling was that we were three teams fighting for second third and this fourth place. That is what we did not want, this fourth place. It was a big, big pressure to catch this medal. When we entered the last shooting, I saw and think we all saw that Latypov missed four. There was a change in mindset, I went from completely defensive to completely attacking mode for a Gold medal. This was a possibility we were given, an extra bonus that we could fight for the Gold medal that we did not think we had a to fight for. I was completely in my own world. I am very happy that we managed to do this turnaround.”

Germany with one penalty and nine spare round finished fourth, 1:04.3 back. Sweden with one penalty and thirteen spares finished fifth, 1:49.4 back. Canada with two penalties and nine spares finished in a Canadian Olympic Best sixth place, 1:56.3 back.

Cold, Cold, Cold Start

The start of the men’s relay was moved up 2.5 hours due to the expected very cold temperatures. That prediction came true with the thermometer reading -15C at the start with the wind blowing, but the sun shining and the tracks extremely slow. Even with the stiff wind bothering them, twelve teams, all decked out in physio take to protect them from the cold, and led by Switzerland left the range within 11 seconds, eight with no spares and the other with just a single spare round. As soon as the pack left the stadium, Sturla Holm Laegreid took control of the pace, all the way into the standing stage. Said Karimulla Khalili got away from standing first with a single spare, while most of the leading group needed spares. Behind the ROC leadoff leg, Ukraine and Belarus and France followed within a two seconds. Laegreid, after a penalty loop left 39 seconds back in 13th.

ROC in Front

By the first exchange, Khalili tagged Alexander Loginov less than a second before Belarus with Jacquelin taking over for France 7.8 seconds back. Laegreid battled back to seventh position, sending Tarjei out 40 seconds behind Loginov. The ROC veteran pressed the pace into his prone stage, shot fast and clean and was gone. Lazouski left second for Belarus with Jacquelin after one spare third, but 22 seconds back. Tarjei cleaned in five show shots, dropping to 8th, one minute back. When Loginov came to standing, the wind settled a bit, still he needed two spares to retain the lead. Jacquelin cleaned in five shots, closing the gap to 17 seconds as they headed to the second exchange. Behind these two, it was a spare round circus, with Belarus holding third, but now 59 seconds back with Italy a second slower.

JT Battles back

ROC maintained the lead at the second exchange, with Tsvetkov going out with a 36-second lead on Desthieux. Belarus’ Maksim Varabei was next with Lukas Hofer on his shoulder. JT left in sixth, 1:47 back. Tsvetkov, all alone, came to prone cleaned in five careful shots to extend his lead as Desthieux used two spares, dropping to 48 seconds back; Belarus and Germany, with Benedikt Doll followed 1:03 and 1:16 back. JT struggled loading his two spare rounds, dropping to 1:52 off the pace. Tsvetkov again shot very carefully, but all five shots seemed to be dead center, extending his lead as Desthieux struggled with his spare round, going out 58 seconds back. Doll used a spare but moved to third, 1:05 back, while JT, after a speedy 2.5 km loop, shot fast and clean, leaving in fourth, just five second behind his German rival. Heading to the last exchange, Doll and JT battled, closing the gap to Desthieux down to less than two seconds with the Norwegian moving into third position.

Latypov Melts, Christiansen Cleans

Latypov had a lead of 41 seconds over Quentin Fillon Maillet as they left for the anchor leg. Vetle Sjaastad Christiansen and Philipp Nawrath were next at 43 and 43.9 seconds back. This trio battling for two medals skied together for a while until Fillon Maillet took the lead just before the prone stage. Latypov continued unchallenged, shot 5-for-5 and sped away. Christiansen was first out of the prone stage after five fast perfect shots. Nawrath and Fillon Maillet needed a spare, dropping 3 and 12 seconds behind the Norwegian. The double Gold medalist fought his way back to his Norwegian and German foes before the standing stage. Latypov under absolutely no pressure came to standing, shot slowly and missed four times while all his rivals came to the range. Latypov completely melted down, missing four shots eventually going for two penalty loops, while Christiansen cleaned in five shots to take the lead with Fillon Maillet out next, 21 seconds back. Latypov fell to third, 40 seconds back.

Norwegian Gold!

Christiansen was unopposed in the last 2.5 km, with Fillon Maillet comfortably in second for the Silver medal and Latypov third for the Bronze medal. Christiansen, all smiles pointed and punched the sky as he crossed the line bringing Norway the Gold medal.

First French relay medal since 2006

Simon Desthieux emphasized the importance of the French team’s Silver medal. “Today is different than the other races, because we love the relay. For France, there has been no medal in the last three Olympics (Bronze in 2006) so it was important for us to perform today. At the finish, I was so happy to live this moment, to share that with the team” … As for his tough battle with his German and Norwegian rivals, he added, “I was alone during the race, but it is sometimes like that in the third leg. I gave everything to catch the front but Maksim Tsvetkov was really strong and a good shooter today. Johannes ands Benni Doll were so strong too. My goal was to give Quentin the maximum time before the fourth leg.”

Khalili’s medal: “It was my dream”

Khalili’s Bronze medal was a dream fulfilled for the ROC leadoff leg. “It was my dream (to win a medal). I had a really good race. We knew Norway and France are strong teams. We have to be happy we are on the podium with them…It was important to have a good start. Norway and Germany had some problems in the shooting, so it was my chance to have a good raced today. It was a good step for the next leg. I was so nervous watching the other guys on my team. Regarding the anchor leg, he added, “I told (Eduard) that it is biathlon and sometimes things happen. Many teams wanted to be on the podium, but it is all okay.”

Photos: IBU/Christian Manzoni

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