Who else? Norway burns field for men's team sprint gold
You just can’t keep Norway down for long. Less than 30 minutes to be exact.
Moments after the women’s team sprint final, where Norway’s Marit Bjorgen won her Winter Games record 14th medal, a bronze, her countrymen reclaimed the country’s golden standard.
Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo and Martin Johnsrud Sundby dominated the field to take the men’s team sprint gold Wednesday, winning the event in 15 minutes, 56.26 seconds.
Norway now leads all nations with 31 medals, including 12 golds, in PyeongChang. It’s also the nation’s 13th cross-country medal of the Games.
"If you can tell us if we are ahead of Germany in the overall standings now, that would mean a lot," Sundby said. "We count medals and have had a good Olympics for the whole team. When we watch the other athletes in other disciplines do so good, it is inspiring to everybody."
At just 21 years old, Klaebo has already won three golds in PyeongChang. It’s Sundby’s third medal of the Games – two golds and a silver.
Jostling with Sweden, France and the Olympic Athletes from Russia team through the early going, Norway held just a 1.67-second lead heading into the fifth of six laps. That’s when Sundby made his move.
In his final lap of the event, he turned that slim lead into a massive one, pushing 5.17 seconds ahead of Sweden before handing off the final lap to Klaebo.
"It means everything," Sundby said of his gold medal. "The last couple of days have been nerve-wracking, we have talked about scenarios and we have talked about how to solve this race in the best possible way. I think we actually did it in the best possible way in the final today. I think we both need a vacation soon, but we have one race left."
From there, there was no chance at catching Klaebo, who has dominated his events in PyeongChang, as he was able to celebrate before crossing the finish line 1.71 seconds ahead of OAR.
"This guy inspires me," Sundby said of his teammate. "He has come in last season and in this season, maybe showing us how modern cross-country skiing should be. He is a talent everybody looks up to at moment, but he is only 21 years old so I hope I have one advice or two to give him in the next few years, but for sure he has taken cross-country skiing to another level."
But Klaebo, cross-country's young star couldn't have done it without the 33-year-old Sundby.
"He has been the best cross-country skier in the world in the last seasons," he said. "To see how he does it and to see how he trains, it means a lot."
OAR’s Denis Spitsov and Alexander Bolshunov outlasted France’s Maurice Manificat and Richard Jouve for the silver by just 0.31 seconds. It’s Spitsov’s and Bolshunov’s third medals of the game, each with two silvers and a bronze.
The U.S. men’s team of Erik Bjornsen and Simi Hamilton couldn’t replicate the historic success of their female counterparts.
Minutes after Team USA’s Jessie Diggins and Kikkan Randal won the first women’s cross-country medal in U.S. history – and the country’s first cross-country medal in 42 years – the men finished in sixth place, 20.72 seconds behind Norway. After hanging tough in the early on, Bjornsen fell on the third lap, knocking the U.S. out of contention.
OAR kicked off the event, beating out Sweden for the win in the first semifinal. The Swedish duo of Marcus Hellner and Calle Halfvarsson led throughout, but Hellner used a slower pace on the final lap as the two teams coasted across the finish line, grasping the automatic qualifying spots.
In the second semifinal, it was Norway that took the top spot. Who else? France, who raced out to an early lead to begin the sprint, held off the United States team to take the second qualifying spot.
The U.S. duo advanced as one of the “lucky losers” – those with the top six times after the automatic qualifiers. Bjornsen opened up a wide lead of 4.39 seconds before handing off to Hamilton for the final lap, but France’s Magnificat edged him out by 0.24 seconds.
Three “lucky losers” came from each semifinal. Led by the U.S at 16:04.69, Italy and Canada also advanced to the final from the second semifinal.
Germany, Finland – both with times faster than the U.S. -- and the Czech Republic advanced from the first semifinal.