Sweden won a thrilling three-team finish, while the perplexing Olympics continued for Norway and the USA.
Sport: Cross-country skiing
Event: Women’s 4x5k relay (two classic legs, two freestyle legs)
Medalists: Sweden, Finland, Germany
SportsMyriad projections: Norway, Sweden, Finland
How U.S. fared: Kikkan Randall is a better freestyle skier than a classic skier, but she had the first classic leg today. She was in the mix through one lap but faded terribly in the second, handing off 39.7 seconds behind in 12th place. Sadie Bjornsen moved up to ninth but lost time, 1:04.9 back. Liz Stephen lost another 30 seconds to the leaders in the first freestyle leg, remaining in ninth.
Then it got strange. Jessie Diggins, the youngest skier on the team at 22, pulled alongside Italy for eighth. But she took a wrong turn as she pulled into the stadium. Italy got away, and the USA took ninth.
What happened: Russia’s Julia Ivanova got the home crowd rocking by taking the lead through the first leg, but they quickly dropped in the second. The Czech Republic, in second place after the first, also dropped far behind.
Sweden was a close third after the first leg (Ida Ingemarsdotter) and first after the second (Emma Wiken), but Anna Haag lost pace with the leaders in the third leg.
Norway had a virtual all-star team but was losing time. Heidi Weng was 6.5 seconds back after the first leg. Therese Johaug slid to 13.4 back. Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen shed more time and handed off with a 33.4-second gap.
Instead, it was those surprising Finns. Aino-Kaisa Saarinen, fourth and fifth in her two Olympic races, pulled through a strong two laps. Keettu Niskanen then pulled away from Germany at the end of the third leg.
But Germany, which just stayed in touch through three legs, handed off to Denise Herrman. She immediately got on the tail of Krista Lahteenmaki. No pressure or anything.
Sweden and Norway had the big guns on the anchor leg — Charlotte Kalla and Marit Bjoergen, each of whom already had a medal. After one lap, Kalla was within 15 seconds of the lead. Bjoergen was within 30.
Kalla kept closing — 10 seconds, then five. Bjoergen, who had visions of another large medal haul after winning the skiathlon early in the Games, did not.
Lahteenmaki opened a little gap on the downhill leading into the stadium, but then all three skiers came together. On the last turn, Kalla made the crucial move. She pulled ahead of Lahteenmaki for the win.
So after 20k of racing, all three medalists finished within one second — Sweden, Finland, Germany.
France passed a dispirited Norway for fourth. Russia cruised to sixth. Poland was all alone in seventh. Then came Italy, helped along to eighth by the USA’s wrong turn. The USA was nearly a minute ahead of the Czech Republic.