Norway Claims Fifth Biathlon Gold Medal In Winter Olympics

Norway roared back to pull off a stunning win in the men's 4x7.5km biathlon relay at the Beijing Olympics on Tuesday following a sensational collapse on the final shoot by Eduard Latypov of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC).

The middle two legs of the race looked like a victory parade for the ROC team, but a disastrous series of misses by Latypov destroyed their chances of gold, allowing Vetle Sjaastad Christiansen to swoop in and claim the win for Norway.

"We had the margins on our side, combined with Vetle performing at his best. We're so grateful," an elated Johannes Thingnes Boe said after securing his second relay gold of the Games, and his third overall.

"We never gave up, but we were so far behind I thought we were just fighting for the bronze," said Sturla Holm Laegreid, Norway's lead-off man.

Christiansen crossed the line 27.4 seconds ahead of Quentin Fillon Maillet of France, with Latypov coming home 17.9 seconds further back for a disappointing bronze medal finish.

Maillet was all the happier with his silver as it made for a total of five biathlon medals at one Olympics, more than any other athlete.

Freezing temperatures of minus 15 Celsius prompted organisers to start the race 2-1/2 hours earlier than planned, and the competition began in blazing afternoon sunshine with blustery winds increasing the chill in the air.

In all, 21 teams of four set out, with each racer skiing three 2.5km laps and shooting twice, once from the prone position and once from standing.

The field remained tight through the first leg, with the top dozen teams skiing into the second shoot with only a few seconds between them, but the Norwegians soon found themselves well down the pack after an indifferent performance by Sturla Holm Laegreid.

The Russians took command over the middle two legs of the race, Alexander Loginov and Maxim Tsvetkov taking their time on the range and preserving their lead. Latypov, a bronze medallist in the pursuit race, set his sights on bringing home the gold.

That dream was dashed, however, as he missed a scarcely-believable four of his five shots to leave his team's hopes in tatters and Christiansen sailed past into the lead on the final lap, with no intention of relinquishing it.

Wrapped up in bear hugs by his team mates after crossing the finish line, he delivered Norway's fifth biathlon gold of the Games and by far the most thrilling. [REUTERS]


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