Cross-Country Skiing – Russians storm gold slack as Germany take sensational silver

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ZHANGJIAKOU, China, Feb 12 (Reuters) – The Russian Olympic Committee delivered a dominant display to win the 4x5km relay on Saturday, with Germany fending off the sport’s superpowers to win a sensational silver medal – its first-ever Olympic medal in cross country.

Sweden clinched bronze, as individual sprint champion Jonna Sundling rallied after a poor third run from Frida Karlsson to beat Finland’s Krista Parmakoski in the sprint for third place.

The race will go down as one of the biggest Olympic days for German women on the cross-country trails, as they broke away early with the Russians and combined power and courage to hold on to a barely believable second place. .

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The four stages of the race were split, the first two in classic style and the second two in freestyle, with each rider from the 18 teams completing two laps of the 2.5km track.

Norway’s hopes suffered a blow when Tiril Weng fell following a collision with Latvian rivals Patricija Eiduka, but his side managed to get back in the running before falling back later.

The Russians took an early lead thanks to Yulia Stupak, who led 12.9 seconds ahead of Sweden’s Dahlqvist after her first lap. However, she was held back by the unlikely figure of Katherine Sauerbrey of Germany in the first exchange, as the Germans showed they weren’t just there to make up the mark.

Sauerbrey’s teammate Katharina Hennig took a surprise break midway through her second round to leave Natalia Nepryaeva in her wake, taking a 4.3 second lead in the second exchange, with the top seven teams all within 30 seconds. leaders.

The chasing pack was reduced to three on stage three, with Sweden’s Frida Karlsson, Finland’s Kerttu Niskanen and Norway’s Helene Marie Fossesholm tightly packed.

None of them, however, seemed able to find a rhythm that would close the gap to less than 20 seconds.

That left ROC’s Veronika Stepanova and Germany’s Sofie Krehl to go head-to-head on the final lap, Stepanova surging to victory 18.2 seconds clear of Krehl to take the Olympic crown, before Sundling sprinted over Parmakoski for bronze.

“It’s a special day,” Stepanova said. “It was really tough because we have a World Cup win and a lot of people say, ‘You have to win, you have to win.’ So I’m like, ‘OK, we need a good result’ and I do what I can.”

While the Russians had to deal with starting as favourites, the Germans struggled to see what they had achieved.

“I have no words for it. It’s amazing,” said Victoria Carl.

Hennig said, “It was like a thriller. I was so excited when the other girls were running around. It was an amazing feeling at the end.”

“It’s unbelievable. We’re so happy. I can’t believe it right now,” Sauerbrey said, while Krehl added: “It’s a lot of emotion – maybe I have need time and then I can recognize what we have done.

“Of course it’s a surprise, but we’ve all had very good races over the past few days.”

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Reporting by Philip O’Connor and Mitch Phillips; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Ken Ferris

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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