ZHANGJIAKOU, China (Reuters) -Johannes Klaebo anchored Norway to a scintillating victory in Wednesday’s men’s team sprint at the Beijing Olympics, powering away from the field late on to claim gold ahead of Finland and the team representing the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC).
The title was Klaebo’s second of the Games and his fourth medal overall following his victory in the individual sprint, silver in the 4x10km relay and bronze in the 15km classic race.
Concerns about freezing temperatures saw the start times of Wednesday’s sprint races moved to earlier in the day, and dusk at the National Cross-Country Centre in Zhangjiakou provided the perfect backdrop for the drama that unfolded.
After a tight first half to the race, Alexander Bolshunov tried to make a break for the Russians on his last leg by attacking up the steep hills early in the course but Norway’s Erik Valnes was in no mood to let him go and he was quickly reeled in.
Finland’s Iivo Niskanen seemed relaxed as he prepared for his final lap, taking time to wave to a TV camera before setting off at a frenetic pace, tucked in behind Norway’s Valnes and Bolshunov and flanked by Sweden’s William Poromaa.
Niskanen handed a slender lead to Joni Maki for the final circuit and the battle for medals between Finland, Norway and the ROC team reached boiling point as the last lap got underway.
Klaebo waited until halfway through before flipping the switch, hammering his way into the stadium for the final time and thundering up the home straight to take gold as Maki held off Russian Alexander Ternetev to grab the silver for Finland.
(Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Ed Osmond and Ken Ferris)