Sweden finishes sweep of cross-country relay golds

Feb. 16, 2014 at 8:56 AM

SOCHI, Russia, Feb. 16 (UPI) -- Marcus Hellner began the final leg with a 14-second lead Sunday and made no mistakes in anchoring Sweden to the gold medal in the Olympic cross-country relay.

The Swedes completed a sweep of both the women's and men's relays at these Olympics while Norway, in a huge disappointment to the legion of cross-country fans in that nation, failed to medal in either of them.

Hellner added the relay gold to the silver he won in the skiathlon earlier in these Olympics and he was joined on the winning team by Lars Nelson, Daniel Richardsson and Johan Olsson. They each skied a 10-kilometer leg.

Richardsson had previously won a bronze in the individual sprint and Olsson was a silver medalist in the 15-kilometer classic race.

Sweden stayed in front throughout the race and when Olsson gave way to Hellner for the final leg there was a 14.3-second gap back to Russian Maxim Vylezghanin.

In the women's race, Sweden's Charlotte Kalla made up 25 seconds on the frontrunners during the final leg to win the gold medal and with that in mind Hellner ensured no one would catch him.

Hellner steadily increased his lead and won by 27.3 seconds over the Russian.

France pulled off a major surprise by winning the bronze medal, finishing 38 seconds in front of the fourth-place Norwegians. This is just the second time in the last seven Olympics Norway has failed to win a medal in the men's relay.

It is only the third time a nation has won both the men's and women's cross-country relays at the Olympics. The Norwegians did so in 1968 and teams from the Soviet Union repeated that feat four years later.

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