Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo produced a stunning late spurt to clinch victory for Norway in the men’s 4x10km relay at the Alpensia Cross-Country Centre on Sunday 18 February, securing a record-equalling fifth gold in eight cross-country skiing events for his country at PyeongChang 2018.
The lead changed hands several times during a thrilling final lap as the Norwegian battled it out with Olympic Athlete from Russia (OAR) anchor Denis Spitsov, who finished 9.4 seconds behind to claim the silver for his team, with a France quartet anchored by Adrien Backscheider taking the bronze.
Fourth in the 4x10km relay at Sochi 2014, Norway have now won all seven major relay competitions (including the World Cup and world championships) since then. With their women’s team also prevailing in their relay on Saturday 17 February, the Scandinavian country has become the first nation to win both the men’s and women’s events at a single Olympic Winter Games for a second time, after Grenoble 1968.
Defending champions Sweden, who were aiming for a third straight victory in the event, placed fifth, over two minutes behind the Norwegians. A superb second leg by Alexander Bolshunov looked to have laid the foundations for a first gold medal of PyeongChang 2018 for OAR only for Norway’s Simen Hegstad Krueger – a skiathlon gold medallist on 11 February – to wipe out their lead of almost half a minute and overhaul Alexey Chervotkin, with France also moving into contention.
Spitsov breathed new life into the OAR challenge on the final leg, reeling in the leading pair and making it a two-horse race for gold as the French fell away. Bare-headed in the sunshine, the 21-year-old Klaebo made repeated attempts to break clear of Spitsov before finally managing to shake him off in the final kilometre to cruise across the finish line and into the arms of his jubilant team-mates.
“I think we are lucky to be on this team,” said Klaebo, the youngest member of the Norwegian foursome by more than three years. “There could have been a lot of people from Norway doing this relay. We are just grateful to be here. To be able to take the gold is unbelievable.”
“He looked incredibly strong,” said Krueger of Klaebo’s performance. “When he went ahead, Spitsov couldn’t come back and we all just cheered and screamed.”
This is an important event. We hadn’t won it for 16 years and we struggled a bit at the last Olympics, so to be able to take it home this year with these guys was great. It was a really good day for the Norwegian team.Martin Johnsrud Sundby Norway