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Finns capture second women’s relay gold


Women’s cross country skiing had made its Olympic debut at the 1952 Winter Games in Oslo, in the form of the individual 10km. In Cortina, a new event, the 3x5km relay was added to the programme.

Scheduled for 1 February and involving 10 teams of three, the race began in freezing conditions. The Soviet trio of Lyubov Kozyreva, Radya Yeroshina and Alevtina Kolchina – the winner, silver medallist and fourth-placed athlete from the individual 10km – were viewed as the clear favourites.

However, Finland, featuring 1954 world silver medallist Sirkka Polkunen, 1952 Olympic silver medallist Mirja Hietamies, and 1952 Olympic bronze medallist Siiri Rantanen, also fancied their chances and would prove to be the Soviet trio’s toughest opponents.
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Kozyreva got her team off to a great start, covering her 5km leg in 22:58 and building up a 24-second lead for Kolchina to defend. Hietamies, skiing the second leg for Finland, put in a fine performance, reducing that margin to six seconds as Rantanen then engaged in a thrilling anchor-leg duel with Yeroshina.

The Finn quickly drew level with and surpassed the frontrunner, but Yeroshina exhibited great resolve to retake the lead. Around 2km from the finish line, Rantanen produced a remarkable burst of acceleration to sprint ahead and claim a hard-fought and slightly unexpected gold medal for Finland by 27 seconds. Sweden (Irma Johansson, Anna Lisa Eriksson and Sonja Edström) finished third, 20 seconds behind the USSR and a minute ahead of fourth-placed Norway.

The same three countries went on to finish in the top three spots again in the 3x5km four years later in Squaw Valley, but this time it was Sweden who would take gold, USSR silver and Finland bronze.

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