By Philip O’Connor
ZHANGJIAKOU, China (Reuters) -Sweden’s Elvira Oeberg held her nerve on a thrilling last leg to win gold with her sister Hanna in the 4×6 km biathlon relay at the Beijing Games on Wednesday, with the team representing the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) coming second and Germany third.
Elvira, the younger of the two sisters, was handed the task of anchoring the Swedish team and her sister gave her a lead of 7.4 seconds to defend for the final leg. She kept her cool on the range and skied relentlessly to win by 12 seconds.
“They couldn’t have given me a better starting position, so I really tried today to focus on my own race and just do like I normally do in a sprint, just do my thing,” an elated Elvira said. “I’m really, really proud that I managed to keep it together. It’s a special situation to be in.”
A total of 20 teams set out for three laps of 2 km each in chilly conditions, with each racer making two visits to the shooting range, one in the prone position and one standing.
Each was equipped with three extra bullets to make up for missed shots on each shoot, with further misses being punished by a trip around the 150-meter penalty loop, and once again the race was decided on the shooting range.
Germany led after the first leg with Sweden and Italy hot on their heels, and the trio all shot clean on the first shoot to maintain the distance between them and the rest of the field.
Norway’s bad afternoon continued with a disastrous visit to the range on the second leg which ended their hopes as Tirill Eckhoff’s shooting touch deserted her, missing five shots that sent her sliding down the standings.
By the third leg it was a race between the ROC, Italy and Sweden with the Oeberg sisters, 2018 gold medallist Hanna and Elvira, who has picked up two silver medals in Beijing, taking the last two legs for the Swedes.
It was not all plain sailing, however, as Elvira missed one shot on her final shoot and faced a late burst from ROC’s Uliana Nigmatullina but she held on to win, gliding across the line and into the history books with Hanna as Sweden’s most successful Olympic biathletes with three medals each.
(Reporting by Philip O’Connor; Editing by Peter Rutherford and Himani Sarkar)