ERZURUM, Turkey — As was to be expected given their performances the rest of this week, Russia was in control of the 4 x 5 k relay at World Juniors on Sunday from start to finish. Anchor leg Sergey Ustiugov secured his sweep of all four available gold medals when he crossed the line an untouchable 44.8 seconds ahead of Kazakhstan’s Roman Ragozin. Norway, anchored by Sindre Bjoernestad Skar, took home bronze.
“The relay is always a very special race,” said Ustiugov. “The joy from the success is always bigger when you can share with your teammates.”
Russia presented other nations a formidable opponent on Sunday, as they’d swept or nearly swept every men’s race leading up to the relay, but in the scramble classic leg, Italy’s Mauro Brigadoi managed to stick with Artem Maltsev (RUS) through the tag-off.
Italy faded to sixth in the second leg, but Kazakhstan’s Sergey Malyshev moved up from third to second to push Ermil Vokuev (RUS) from behind, and came through for the tag to only eight seconds down.
The third leg was where Russia truly opened up the race. Dmitriy Rostovtsev (RUS) skied twelve seconds faster than the next closest competitor, and opened Russia’s lead to 20 seconds.
“Dmitriy did a great job on the third leg,” said Ustiugov. “I felt comfortable before my 5 k.”
The triple gold medalist looked as thought he was skiing at full force early in his leg, but as he came into the stadium for the final time, Ustiugov coasted through the finish with no one in sight.
“I never expected I could be so successful,” he said. “I am leaving [for] home very satisfied.”
Barring severe equipment malfunction, Russia’s victory on Sunday had been close to guaranteed, but Kazakhstan’s silver-medal performance was a complete surprise for many.
As Norway’s anchor, Skar thought he’d be the one racing for silver. When he got the tag, Norway was over 40 seconds behind Kazakhstan, and though he managed to pull within 15 seconds of them, it wasn’t enough to challenge them.
“I opened it up hard but the anchorman from Kazakhstan was stronger than I thought,” said Skar. “I was not able to come closer to him.”
When Roman Ragozin (KAZ) crossed the line in second, his team’s celebration was so great one would have thought they had won.
“We were waiting a long time for the medal success,” said Nikita Tkachenko, Kazakhstan’s third leg. “Next time we might eve be fighting for the gold medal.”
Canada and U.S. Finish 10th and 11th
Further back in the pack featured a North American showdown of sorts, at least later in the race, as Canada and the U.S. finished 10th and 11th, respectively. The U.S. scrambler, Logan Hanneman, went out strong and put the Americans in fourth at the end of his leg, while Canada’s Alexis Turgeon had the Canucks sitting in 10th.
In the subsequent two stages, the U.S. moved back while the Canadians moved up. Sebastian Dandurand (CAN), a Nordic Combiner, got put in as ringer for the Canadians as their fourth man had been unable to race this week due to naturally high hemoglobin levels.
Cole Morgan (USA) skied the ninth-fastest anchor to hold off Finland’s Lahdemaki, and pulled to 5.7 behind Dandurand.
Audrey Mangan (@audreymangan) is an Associate Editor at FasterSkier and lives in Colorado. She learned to love skiing at home in Western New York.