ESOC Sprint Relay: comfortable win for Russia, sprint finish for silver

Russia’s first team, Marina Viatkina and Vladislav Kiselev, ended as comfortable winners of today’s race, and after a thrilling sprint finish it was silver for Sweden and bronze for Norway. Sweden’s medal-winning team was Lisa Larsen and Linus Rapp, no doubt buoyed up through both winning medals in the Middle distance yesterday.

Fine weather greeted competitors this morning

On a fine, sunny morning with a temperature of minus 20 degrees in Kartola, Bulgaria there was plenty of hectic action and change in position, with the fastest on each leg in the six-leg race taking under 8 minutes to complete the course. The two members of each team ski alternately, the man going out first and the final leg taken by the woman; teams take the legs in different orders.

It was on leg 4 that Viatkina skied what proved to be a decisive leg, going out 1 second ahead and finishing with a lead of 43 seconds. This was reduced to 36 seconds on leg 5, but Viatkina was again dominant on the final leg, with the final winning margin 1.05. The three Russian teams all performed well; Russia 2 (Olesia Riazanova and Sergey Gorlanov) led for the first three legs, and finished second in the race with Russia 3 (Tatiana Oborina and Andrei Lamov) third, ten seconds slower.

Intense competition for silver

Behind them, an intense competition was developing. Sweden’s Linus Rapp was fourth after the first leg, just 12 seconds down, but that team then dropped several places to be almost 3 minutes down in the middle of the race. Norway 1 (Anna Ulvensøen and Jørgen Baklid) started more slowly, but after coming through in 15th place after leg 2 they quickly became medal contenders and were fourth-placed team in the race after legs 3, 4 and 5.

For the final leg, Ulvensøen set off 39 seconds ahead of Larsen, with Linda Lindkvist for Sweden 2 also ahead of Larsen by 11 seconds, but the speedy Larsen, current world champion in Pursuit, was able to catch Ulvensøen and then overtake her just before the finish line.

Finland was the next nation to finish, 1.26 behind Larsen and Ulvensøen who were given the same finish time in the results, and the podium places were completed by Estonia and Switzerland. This is the third successive year that Russia and Sweden have won the ESOC Sprint Relay gold and silver respectively; Norway took bronze in 2019 but in 2020 it was Estonia in third place.

Today should have been a rest day, but now the athletes will have to re-charge their energy levels quickly to be ready for the Long Distance race tomorrow, with the mass start scheduled for 10.00 local time.

Hopeful for similar conditions tomorrow!

Sprint Relay: leading official results (first team per nation to finish)

Gold: Russia 1 (Vladislav Kiselev & Marina Viatkina)  48:03

Silver: Sweden 3 (Linus Rapp & Lisa Larsen)  51:07

Bronze: Norway 1 (Jørgen Baklid & Anna Ulvensøen)  51:07

  1. Finland 1 (Misa Tuomala & Salla Koskela) 52:33
  2. Estonia 1 (Mattis Jaama & Daisy Kudre) 53:47
  3. Switzerland 1 (Gion Schnyder & Eliane Deininger) 54:55