Petter Northug secured gold for Norway in the 4 x 10 kilometer relay at Sapporo Worlds with an extreme finish sprint. Northug finally got to showcase his sprint skills after crashing with 300 meters to go in the pursuit and watching his teammate crash on his final leg in the two person sprint relay finale.
Northug got a 50 meter lead in just a few seconds at the end of the anchor leg and Sweden and Russia had no chance to follow his extreme sprint finish.
The acceleration was the talk of the town in Sapporo on Friday:
Here is how newspaper VG described it:
“Teammates, competitors, coaches and FIS delegates couldn’t believe what they saw when Petter Northug won the relay for Norway. Northug accelerated at the beginning of the stadium on Friday and CRUSHED Anders Sodergren from Sweden and Jevgenij Dementiev from Russia. He got 80-100 meters ahead (of Sodergren & Dememtiev) in just a few seconds and had enough of a lead to wave to the Norwegian fans in Sapporo before crossing the finish line.
Vegard Ulvang's comments:
“The acceleration was incredible. It looked like the other two skiers were standing still. Sodergren told me before start that his plan was to ski hard (and hopefully drop Northug) during the race. If not he wouldn’t have a chance. It would be like me trying to sprint against Alsgaard in the old days. No point in even trying. I have never seen anything like this in a relay before!”
“Petter's sprint is the most incredible, worst, best, & toughest I have ever seen. We knew he had an incredible acceleration, but this was over and above what we believed. No one in the world has this type of finish sprint,” commented Norweigian team leader Age Skinnstad.
“He is a maniac at sprinting,” said Lars Berger, who skied the third leg for Norway.
“World class,” said Eldar Ronning who skied the first leg for Norway.
– It was never a fight. He might have the World’s best sprint, there isn't more to say, said Anders Sodergren who skied Sweden to a bronze medal.
But it wasn’t only Northug that made this possible. The other three skiers on the team did a great job and gave Northug the position he needed on the last leg.
Here is how each leg went:
1st leg: Eldar Rnning. Eldar was safely in the front of the pack and controlled the pace. He tried to get away on the second lap, but several teams were able to hang on. He wore down the slower teams in the relay, so when Odd-Bjorn Hjelmeset started the second leg it was Norway, Sweden, Russia, Germany, France, and Finland.
2nd leg: The veteran Odd-Bjrn Hjelmeset put the hammer down halfway and got a gap. he got rid of Finland, France, and Germany, but Russia and Sweden were hanging on. He got an important gap on Germany who skied Angerer on the 3rd leg. Norway had World 15 km Champion Lars Berger skiing the next leg.
3rd leg: Lars Berger was in the lead with Sweden and Russia. Norway and Russia traded leading, while the young Swede did a great job hanging on to the two strong skiers ahead of him.
4th leg: Petter Northug was given exactly the position he wanted and stayed behind until the end where he accelerated as only he can!