OlympicsRacingItaly Runs Away With Olympic Men's Relay

FasterSkier FasterSkierFebruary 19, 2006

Editor's Note: At the time of this writing, the French had just filed a complaint that a Swedish racer allegedly took the wrong track but didn't retrace his steps and continued to take the most direct route unlike Frenchamn Jonnier who did retrace his steps after skiing off the course on the third leg of the relay. If by chance the Swedish racer is disqualified the French team could jump into Bronze position. The results below are unofficial pending the jury's decision.

Italy wins going away. Canadians 11th, USA 12th.

The men's 4×10 kilometer Olympic relay was billed as a showdown between reigning Olympic champion Norway and the home country Italy, which had finished second to Norway by inches in the past two Olympics. But today it was all Italy as the home team won the race by about 30 seconds, the first time in recent memory that the Olympic sprint has not come down to a frenzied sprint for the finish. Germany took silver, and Sweden took bronze.

The race started in a shroud of fog, and after the first leg it started snowing heavily. Odd-Bjorn Hjelmeset tried to give Norway some breathing room on the second classic leg, but the new snow made the tracks very slow for the first skier, and no one could break away. The pack stayed tight. Some teams that had been dropped earlier in the race were even able to regain contact with the leaders.

Because of the new snow, Norway was not able to take advantage of their strength in the classic, but Italy defininitely took advantage of their strength in skating. Pietro Piller Cottrer pushed the pace on his 3rd leg ski, causing everyone except Sweden (Anders Sodergren) and Germany (Rene Sommerfeldt) to drop off the pace. Frode Estil (Norway) looked especially pained as Norway dropped out of medal contention in the relay for the first time since 1988. Then, on one of the last hills Cottrer launched an attack that gave Italy a 20 second lead when Cristian Zorzi took off on the anchor leg.

Many expected Zorzi, known mainly as a sprinter, to get reeled in and wait for a sprint to the line, but he milked the excited Italian crowd for a little extra energy and actually began to increase his lead. He went unchallenged for gold, whileTobias Angerer was able to out-duel Swede Mathias Fredriksson to win silver for German.

Canadian Devon Kershaw was the surprise of the classic scramble leg, as he was right at the front the whole way and tagged off to Sean Crooks in first place. Crooks was unable to keep the momentum going on his classic leg, and dropped to 14th in the tightly packed field. Chris Jeffries skied a very good first skate leg for the Canadians to move them up a spot. George Grey also skied well on his anchor leg, passing the American team to finish in 11th place.

For the American team, Kris Freeman skied to 9th place on the opening leg, right with all the leaders in a large pack. On the second leg, Lars Flora dropped into 12th position. Andrew Johnson and Carl Swenson maintained that spot to the finish. It was a disappointing finish for a team that had hoped to build on its 5th place showing in 2002.

Full Results: http://www.nbcolympics.com/results/1500957/detail.html

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