Super Swedes show team spirit to defend 4x10km title and complete Nordic relay double
Sweden completed a successful defence of the men's Olympic 4x10km cross country title, with a dominant performance at the as Laura Cross Country Ski & Biathlon Centre. It capped a golden weekend for the country’s Nordic relay teams, after the Swedish women triumphed in the 4x5km a day earlier.
Swedish anchorman Marcus Hellner was able to enjoy a victorious run into the finish, waving the Swedish flag attached to one of his ski poles, as he crossed the line for a total time of 1 hour 28 minutes 42 seconds.
There was a silver lining for the hosts, as Russia crossed the line second with a cumulative time of 1 hour 29 minutes 9.3 seconds, while the French quartet scooped a surprise bronze.
Treble gold for Hellner
The victory makes Hellner one of Sweden's greatest ever Olympians with a total of three gold medals at the Winter Games - only cross-country skiers Sixten Jernberg, Gunde Svan and Thomas Wassberg have won more, with four apiece.
Hellner won gold in the skiathlon and the relay at the Vancouver Games in 2010, as well as a silver medal in the skiathlon in Sochi.
“I'm very lucky to be the man that could do it, the man that had the gap, because of these guys. It's incredible,” said the 28-year-old, keen to emphasise the team effort involved in the title defence.
His team-mate Johan Olsson added: “There's no secret, just really hard work. We made the race our own. We set the pace and we knew we were the strongest team.”
The hero for Russia was Alexander Legkov, who powered through the third leg, recording by far the fastest leg of the day to make up for his team’s slow start.
“I'm happy for my team and my country. It's good to make everyone realise that we're one of the strongest teams ever,” said the 31-year-old Russian.
Norway, so often the team to beat in the cross-country events, finished a disappointing fourth, with their normally formidable team leader Petter Northug continuing his quest for a medal at Sochi 2014.