And the winner is…. Norway! For the fourth time in a row, Norway won the men’s relay race in Ruhpolding. With the best available team, the victory was not in at risk. France, with Martin Fourcade, and Russia also won a place on the podium.
The Norwegian relay team lived up to its role as favorite and masterfully secured their victory. The Norwegians were up front from the beginning. Lars Helge Birkeland, Tarjei Boe and Emil Hegle Svendsen laid the groundwork for Johannes Thingnes Boe, who increased his lead over Antonin Guigonnat from France and the Italian Thierry Chenal. Since he shot without a miss in the prone position, he could easily afford two re-loads in the standing bout and bring on the celebration. It was Norway’s fourth win in a row in the Chiemgau-Arena.
Fourcade made up 40 seconds
At first the French team was a bit behind, but then the third starter Martin Fourcade, caught up 40 seconds and brought his team from seventh to first place by shooting flawlessly and racing strongly. The up-and-coming Guigonnat held up well and secured second place at the range where the Italian Chenal lost his advantage due to a penalty loop in the standing position bout. Italy placed seventh with almost two minutes back-log.
Ricco Groß in third along with Russia
Chenal’s loss helped the Russians gain a place on the podium. Alexey Volkov, Maxim Tsvetkov, Antons Babikov and Shipulin delivered a strong performance – especially at the range. Having to reload only four times, they were the second best marksmen after Slovenia (tenth place, reloading twice). For their trainer Ricco Groß, this was the first medal since the World Championship relay race victory in Hochfilzen.
The Germany in fourth
The German team won the frusterating fourth place. Having to reload ten times was simply too much. The track was also not as hard as the day before. “Some of us were already a bit tired,” said Mark Kirchner, “Arnd for example, mastered all the races so far, but the deep snow just wasn’t helpful.” Erik Lesser, however, could be satisfied. He was the starter and shot without error while taking turns in the lead with his Norwegian competitor, “I learned from my mistakes in the individual race and feel that I am about where I want to be skiing, and when one feels good physically, one generally shoots better as well.” “Besides,” he said with a wink, “I wanted to prove that Michael Rösch is not the best starter in the world.” After the race, Benedikt Doll was exhausted. He said, “It was very difficult for me to keep up with Tarjei and this had its consequences at the range.” Four reloads cost the German relay team nearly half a minute. The third relay skier, Arnd Peiffer, had to reload twice, which the team could have absorbed, if the skiing in the deeper snow had not been so difficult. “I am not happy with my skiing,” he said.
Schempp: too much risk
As a result, Simon Schempp started with nearly fifty seconds back-log. Accordingly, Schempp skied full throttle, a spot on the podium was still possible. Then he took too much of a risk at the range. Having to reload twice cost him time. Third place was definitely no longer in sight after two more misses in the standing position.
On short notice, Austria had to start without Julian Eberhard and placed fifth. His replacement, old timer Daniel Mesotitsch, started third and fell behind. This cost the Austrian team a chance on the podium. Sweden, the winner in Oberhof, was in the mid-range until the final relay skier, Fredrik Lindström, managed to bring them up to sixth place.