Biathlete Tikhonov turns disappointment into gold
Tikhonov had had three days to reflect on his narrow failure to win a gold medal in the 20km event at Grenoble. His silver was still a towering achievement for a young skier, but he knew that if only he had missed just one target, instead of two, then victory would have been his, instead of going to the Norwegian Magnar Solberg. Now, though, had another chance to win a title – and this time he would need the support of his Soviet Union team-mates.
The 4 x 7.5km relay was a new event for the Olympics. The Norwegians had won world championship titles in both 1966 and 1967 but the Soviet Union were considered just as strong, if not better, thanks to a line-up of athletes that appeared intimidatingly strong– including Tikhonov.
Tikhonov took the first leg, and produced a blistering pace. Despite having to endure a penalty loop for a missed target, he handed over with a lead of 45 seconds from Sweden. Norway were almost a further minute back and already looking unlikely to challenge for gold.
In fact, the contest was closer than the bare statistics suggested. Norway's Solberg set the fastest split time of the day – but he and his fellow countrymen also missed enough targets to scupper their hopes with a series of penalty laps.
The Soviet team won by a margin of nearly two minutes in the end, giving Tikhonov the gold medal that he had missed out on a few days earlier. It was the start of a remarkable run for him – he won relay gold in each of the next three Games as well, and also won five individual world championships. But individual Olympic gold was destined always to elude him.