PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (Reuters) - Fredrik Lindstroem emerged victorious from a frenetic battle on the final leg with Norway’s Emil Hegle Svendsen to take the gold medal for Sweden in the men’s Olympic 4x7.5km relay on Friday, the final biathlon event of the Games.
Lindstroem held his nerve as Svendsen struggled on the final shoot, skiing away to win by 56 seconds.
Simon Schempp used all his sprinting prowess to make up for poor shooting and deliver the bronze for Germany.
The Germans got off to a great start and by the end of the third lap the field was starting to spread out. When the first switch was made the top six teams were all within half a minute of each other.
Benedikt Doll immediately set about increasing Germany’s lead, shooting well on his first visit to the range to open a gap of over 35 seconds to Semenov of Ukraine in second.
But Doll missed five of his eight shots to throw the lead away, allowing Michal Slesingr of the Czech Republic to take over at the front of the pack, with Austria’s Simon Ebhard and Sweden’s Jesper Nelin close behind.
Many of the 18 teams chose to have their top-ranked racer go out third and a frantic battle ensued as Jaroslav Soukup of the Czech Republic was chased down by Austria’s Julian Eberhard, Sweden’s Sebastian Samulesson and Johannes Thingnes Boe of Norway.
Olympic sprint champion Arnd Peiffer and individual winner Boe both skied brilliantly to drag their teams back into contention as the leading group of Norway, Sweden and Germany opened up a gap of a minute over the rest of the field.
Svendsen and Lindstroem shot clean and raced away as Schempp lost ground with wayward shooting to set up a dramatic finale.
Lindstroem arrived at the final shoot fractionally ahead of Svendsen, but the latter’s four misses handed the gold medal to Sweden and Lindstroem had time to high-five his coaching staff as he headed for the line.
“It felt nervous. I’ve never shot for an Olympic gold medal before, so it was a new situation,” Lindstroem told Reuters.
“There were nerves when I missed the first shot, and he missed his first shot and his second. I didn’t know what way it was going to go, but I hit five shots from there and that was where it was decided.
“It’s so cool that we get to succeed with this team. It’s a little sensational,” Lindstroem added.
With the Swedish women’s team winning silver the previous night, coach Wolfgang Pichler was delighted with the performance of his biathletes at the Games.
“This is the best thing I have done as a coach, this is the highlight. If you win the men’s relay, the gold medal, it’s the best thing you can do as a coach,” Pichler told reporters.
France’s Martin Fourcade, who won three gold medals in Pyeongchang, had a night to forget as his team put in a poor performance overall, finishing fifth and several minutes behind the leaders.
Reporting by Philip O'Connor, editing by Ed Osmond