Leading the table of medals this far into the competition there was very little suspense as to who would top the biathlon in this year’s Winter Olympics. Germany had a one medal lead that would have been difficult to surpass in a single event. The real competition was between the French and the Norwegians, at equal footing in the rankings, though there was a slight advantage to the French, who had a higher number of gold medals. Would the French increase their lead with yet another gold medal? Or would the Norwegians overtake them and reach second place? These were the questions on everyone’s mind as the men’s relay, the final biathlon event in the 2018 Winter Olympics, was about to kick off.
The French team took the risky decision to send their top athlete, Martin Fourcade, third, giving Antonin Guigonnat, first time Olympian, the opportunity to close the race. Unfortunately for France this strategy could not be tested fully, as their chance for victory at this stage of the race was inconceivable. Poor racing performances from the very first relay, coupled with extreme weather conditions, delayed the French team, eventually proving to be lethal for their chances at success. Although the French did show us some nice moments, these little instants of hope were not sufficient to catch up. As Fourcade told the French sports news outlet L’Équipe: “When you start out badly, it is difficult to get back into the match.”
With the French out of the way, it was the chance for the Norwegians to comfortably move closer to Germany and secure third place in the overall table of medals. A chance that could not be taken, as Sweden miraculously overcame both weather and Norwegian leadership to offer an impressive performance. With no penalty and a 55.5 second lead on their opponents, Sweden swept the leader board and won gold, kicking their northerly neighbours out of the 2018 podium. The German gold medalist Schempp, missing too many a shot, could not bring his team to victory. Germany ended third with an over two-minute difference to the silver medallists. Sweden’s Lindstrom’s impeccable performance at the shooting range made it impossible for the Norwegian to claim gold, finishing second at 1:16:12.0.
This Swedish surprise victory in men’s relay closed this year’s Winter Olympics biathlon competition. Germany is the overall grand-winner with 7 medals, followed by France with 5, and the unexpected Sweden placing third with 4 medals. Martin Fourcade (France), Laura Dahlmeier (Germany), and Johannes Bø (Norway) came out of this competition as the most valuable players, each coming back home with three medals, including three gold for Fourcade and two for Dahlmeier.