Soviet quartet surge to 4x10km relay gold
Going into the men’s 4x10km cross country skiing relay, which was scheduled for the final day of competition in Cortina, the USSR’s quartet were regarded as the overwhelming favourites. Although it was the country’s first appearance at the Winter Games, any supposed lack of experience was offset by the team members’ previous performances in individual events at Snow Stadium. In the 30km, Pavel Kolchin earned a bronze medal, while Vladimir Kuzin and Fyodor Terentyev finished fifth and sixth respectively. In the 15km, meanwhile, Kolchin claimed another bronze; Nikolay Anikin was eighth and Kuzin 10th. Finally, Terentyev got his hands on a bronze medal as well in the 50km, in which Kolchin finished sixth.
As temperatures plummeted to -18°, these formidable skiers would come together to lead the relay for the entirety of the race. Just two days after his exploits in the 50km, Terentyev, heading off first, set a fantastic pace, establishing a lead of 1 minute 31 seconds over Finland, spearheaded by August Kiuru, with Norway sitting two seconds off the lead in third.
Terentyev then handed over to Kolchin, who extended the USSR’s lead over Finland to 2 minutes 46 seconds, despite the best efforts of Jorma Kortelainen. The Soviet pair’s times of 33:25 and 33:05 would prove to be the fastest legs of the entire field.
Subsequently, Anikin and Kuzin kept up a steady rhythm for their team, although Kuzin tired towards the end. Nevertheless, he crossed the line with a considerable lead of more than a minute over Veikko Hakulinen, who skied the anchor leg for Finland. Sixten Jernberg, the Swedish anchor, produced a speedy display of 33:44 to ensure his countrymen of the bronze medal.
Terentyev, Kolchin, Anikin and Kuzin were the first team from outside Scandinavia to prevail in the 4x10km at the Olympic Games. In addition, the Soviet Union ended the Games with the greatest number of cross-country medals in Cortina, taking into account the gold and silver won by Lyubov Kozyreva and Radya Yeroshina in the women’s 10km, and the silver obtained by the women’s team (which included Kolchin’s wife, Alevtina Kolchina) in the 3x5km relay. This success launched a highly successful 30-year period for Soviet athletes, during which time they amassed 68 Olympic cross country medals (including 25 golds), a record that places them in the top three countries of all time at the Games.