Men’s relay concludes biathlon at Sochi Olympics
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — Ole Einar Bjoerndalen can give his Olympic career a fitting farewell by setting yet another record in the final men’s biathlon race at the Sochi Games on Saturday.
Competing in his sixth and — by his own account — last Olympics, the Norwegian standout is after his ninth career gold medal in the men’s 4x7.5-kilometer relay.
Bjoerndalen currently shares the best mark of eight Winter Olympic golds with a fellow Norwegian, retired cross-country skiing great Bjoern Daehlie.
Earlier these Games, the 40-year-old Bjoerndalen became the oldest winner of a Winter Games event in the 10K sprint, and he beat Daehlie’s record of 12 career medals by winning the mixed relay with Norway.
Here are five things to know about the men’s relay, the final biathlon event of the Sochi Games.
ALL EYES ON OLE: Bjoerndalen will be in the limelight once again, but don’t overlook the depth of the Norwegian team. Emil Hegle Svendsen bounced back from a disappointing first week to win two gold medals, while former overall World Cup champion Tarjei Boe and his younger brother Johannes Thingnes complete the team, which is not only the defending champion but also a huge favorite to win again.
GREAT GROSS: For all the records Bjoerndalen has broken, one will remain out of reach even for him. Bjoerndalen can win his fourth Olympic medal in the relay format, a feat only four other biathletes have achieved before. One of them, however, went a step further. Ricco Gross finished on an Olympic relay podium five times with Germany. Gross has retired but is present in Sochi — as a coach for the German team.
TWO FOR FOUR: One of Bjoerndalen’s own records is also under threat. The Norwegian won all four events at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games. No other biathlete has ever won four medals at the same Olympics, but Martin Fourcade of France and Ondrej Moravec of Czech Republic can match the Norwegian’s best mark if their countries land on the podium.
FRANCE’S CHALLENGE: Fourcade is hoping to lead France to gold. It would be his third gold after winning the pursuit and the individual race. He was beaten by a ski-tip by Svendsen in the thrilling finish of the mass start event. Fourcade will team up with older brother Simon, pursuit bronze medalist Jean-Guillaume Beatrix, and Simon Desthieux.
RUSSIA’S LAST CHANCE: So far, Russia hasn’t lived up to expectations by taking only one medal. The relay seems to be the perfect event to change that as Russia is a record six-time Olympic champion in the discipline. Surprisingly, their only biathlon medalist these Games, Yevgeny Garanichev, who won bronze in the individual race, has been left out of the team, which consists of Alexey Volkov, Yevgeny Ustyugov, Dmitry Malyshko and anchor Anton Shipulin.