February 25th, 2010
The women’s relay got started in much the same way that the men’s did – two tracks full of skiers right from the start and pace that almost every nation’s scramble leg skier could manage.
Now at the 2.5km mark France’s Aurore Cuinet has made a move to slide into second position with the United States’ Kikkan Randall right on her tails.
As they come down into the stadium Anna Olsson takes the lead for Sweden, with Norway and Germany right behind. Kikkan Randall of the United states tags APU teammate 10.4 second back. With Italy right behind her.
The Second Classic Leg
In the second leg it is all Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland as she pulls a Northug like move coming from 10th position and nearly 40 seconds down to tag off with a 2.4 second advantage. Italy and Norway follow close behind.
[sorry the internet went down during this section]
The First Skate Leg
As the third leg, first skate, gets underway Italy quickly asserts themselves at the front of the race with Norway’s Kristin Stormer Steira holding strong. Poland is doing all they can do to maintain contact.
Midway through the first lap Steira decides to take over the pace setting and moves to the front with some hard V1s on one of the course’s steeper sections.
Germany, France and Japan lead the chase pack 24 seconds down, with the favored Finnish team 37 second off the pace set by Norway. Charlotte Kalla of Sweden it making up ground on the leaders, but the nearly one minute defect seems too large at this point.
Kalla continues to tear through the course and has now lifted the Swedes into a pack with France, Finland and Germany. A pack that is about to go right past Poland. At this point it looks like Germany, Finland and Sweden will battle it out for the bronze medal and may have an outside chance of catching the Italian team if they are not able to match the pace set by the Norwegians.
As the third leg skiers climb the final hill before dropping into the stadium it is still Norway leading with Italy right behind. Kalla led the chase pack down the hill into the stadium before Finland and Germany said thanks for the ride passing just before tagging their teammates.
The Anchor Leg
On the anchor leg, Norway’s Marit Bjorgen has gone out with a blistering tempo and now the Italian team does look vulnerable to the chasing three of Germany, Finland and Sweden. The chase pack’s tempo is incredibly high as they hammer through the course. At 1km into the final leg Norway holds an 11 second lead over the Italian team with the big three closing fast another 10 seconds back.
They come through the stadium, heading out on the bell lap. Finland’s Aino-Kaisa Saarinen leads the chase pack which is sure to soon pounce on the suffering Italian. At the top of the long first climb leaving the stadium contact has been made by both the German and Finnish teams as the Swedes now have fallen off the pace. Saarinen seems hungry for more as she charges now after Bjorgen, with German Claudia Nystad smartly tucked in right behind.
As they climb the hill at 4.2km Nystad decides that the time for a move is now and charges ahead on her own. For a moment Italy’s Sabina Valbusa tries to hold strong, but soon is dropped and passed by Saarinen.
As they come into the stadium Bjorgen has plenty of time to grab a flag to celebrate down the finish lanes. Germany’s Nystad skiing a smart final leg too motions to the crowd as she glides down through the finish lanes and Finland’s Saarinen is excited to be taking the last step on the Olympic podium.
Caitlin Compton of the United States picks off one place to finish in 12th, while the Canadian squad ending the day 16th, the final team across the line.