Sochi: Sweden defend cross country title

Sweden defended their Winter Olympics men's cross country 4x10km title as pre-event favourites and reigning world champions Norway finished outside the podium places.

Sweden's men's cross country relay team

The team of Lars Nelson, Daniel Richardsson, Johan Olsson and Marcus Hellner sealed double delight for the Swedes this weekend - following on from the women's triumph 24 hours earlier.

Three of the four men - Richardsson, Olsson and Hellner - plus Anders Soedergren had won the gold medal in Vancouver 2010 and the Swedes were just as impressive on Sunday.

The quartet did not look back after Nelson and Richardsson had put them ahead by nearly 10 seconds after the first two laps, leaving Olsson and Hellner to finish the job, with the latter coasting over the line with a Swedish flag in his right hand.

An overall time of one hour, 28 minutes and 42 seconds was 27.3secs faster than silver medallists Russia, who were being watched by president Vladimir Putin.

The host country - whose team consisted of Dmitriy Japarov, Alexander Bessmertnykh, Alexander Legkov and Maxim Vylegzhanin - were in eighth place after their first 10km.

But they fought their way back, thanks in part to Legkov's brilliant third-leg lap time of 20mins, 33.4secs - the fastest of the day, which helped them seal their first Olympic medal in this event.

The French quartet of Jean Marc Gaillard, Maurice Manificat, Robin Duvillard and Ivan Perrillat Boiteux settled for bronze after finishing 31.9secs behind the victorious Swedes.

Norway had been tipped to top the podium, but the efforts of Eldar Roenning and Chris Andre Jespersen left them ninth after the halfway stage.

And although Martin Johnsrud Sundby and revered cross-country skier Petter Northug managed to make inroads, it was too little too late as they finished over a minute behind Sweden.

Swedish quartet Lars Nelson, Daniel Richardsson, Johan Olsson and Hellner successfully defended their country's Olympic title, 24 hours after Sweden's women took gold in the relay event.

"It means so much to me to get the gold with these incredible guys - it's just fantastic," said Nelson. "The women's team is also incredible, they're really inspiring."

Olsson, who along with Richardsson and Hellner won gold four years ago, said: "It's a big moment for all of us. We're defending champions from Vancouver, so to do the same performance again was amazing. There's no secret, just really hard work. We made the race our own, we set the pace and we knew we were the strongest team."



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