clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

2010 Winter Olympics: Norway's ace flies to the finish to capture team relay gold

WHISTLER, British Columbia — Petter Northug finally got to do what he does best, and it ended the way it always does.

After getting in position to use his vaunted closing sprint for the first time at the Vancouver Olympics, Northug blew right past Germany's Axel Teichmann to give Norway the gold medal in the men's cross-country team sprint. Teichmann secured the silver medal for Germany, while Russia took bronze.

After being done in by a broken pole in the 30K pursuit — his favorite event — and bad skis on the 15K freestyle, there was nothing standing in Northug's way this time.

"I hoped to get my revenge," Northug said. "When I had the spot I had on the last leg, it was up to me again. And here we are."

At last.

Northug had been expected to dominate the cross-country events in Vancouver, but after three events he had only a bronze in the individual sprint. After his mishap in Saturday's pursuit, the triple world champion and World Cup leader was so angry that he refused to speak to reporters after the race — leading to a storm of criticism and complaints back home.

Now he's smiling again.

"It was great what I did last year (at the worlds), but maybe even bigger today to become Olympic champion," he said. "With the start I had in these championships, maybe it feels even better now to reach my goal."

The freestyle event features a two-man relay, where each skier takes turns going three laps around a 1.6-kilometer course. The Norwegians finished in 19 minutes, 1 second to beat the German duo of Teichmann and Tim Tscharnke by 1.3 seconds. The Russian team of Nikolay Morilov and Alexey Petukhov was 1.5 seconds back in third.

Northug had to do the heavy lifting for Norway throughout the race as his partner Oeystein Pettersen struggled to keep up with his rivals. Pettersen only made the team after sprint specialist Ola Vigen Hattestad pulled out with a sore throat and couldn't match Tscharnke's pace on the fifth lap.

Women cross country

For a couple of veterans who supposedly are past their prime, Claudia Nystad and Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle sure have a lot of spring in their step.

The 32-year-old Nystad pulled away from 23-year-old Anna Haag of Sweden shortly before the finish Monday to give Germany the gold medal in the women's cross-country team sprint at the Vancouver Olympics.

After struggling the past two season, Nystad and Sachenbacher-Stehle returned to the top of an Olympic podium for the first time since being part of Germany's winning relay team in Salt Lake City eight years ago.

"We never lost this dream, and we were always working on it," Nystad said. "It's amazing. You believe in this, and you work for this."

Nystad long has been considered one of the best sprinters on the women's circuit, and she went past the younger Haag as they entered the ski stadium for the final time and pulled away on the final sprint.

The German duo finished in 18 minutes, 3.7 seconds for the gold. The Swedish team of Haag and Charlotte Kalla was 0.6 seconds behind for the silver medal, and Russian duo Irina Khazova and Natalia Korosteleva won bronze after coming in 4 seconds back.

It was the fourth Olympic medal for both Germans — they also have two silvers each from previous games — but Nystad hasn't been on a World Cup podium since 2008. Sachenbacher-Stehle went nearly three years without a World Cup win before taking a team sprint race in Rybinsk, Russia, in January.

"Sometimes, you don't always have the results you were expecting," Sachenbacher-Stehle said. "But you always train hard and do your best, and now we're having good results again."

The freestyle event features a relay with two members on every team taking turns going three laps each around a 1.4-kilometer course.

Kalla, who won the 10K freestyle race last week, started for the Swedes and pushed the pace on all three of her laps but couldn't lose Sachenbacher-Stehle or Khazova.

That meant Haag, Nystad and Korosteleva started the final lap within a second of each other, and the Swede did her best to create some distance from her rivals. Although she shook off the Russian, Haag couldn't answer when Nystad made her move shortly before the finish.8