Host City: Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
Venue(s): Olympic Ski Stadium, Garmisch-Partenkirchen
Date Started: February 10, 1936
Date Finished: February 10, 1936
This event, new on the Olympic program, was introduced at the FIS World Nordic Skiing Championship in Innsbruck 1933, with Sweden as the winner, Norway and Finland not taking part. In Sollefteå, Sweden 1934, Finland won, but Artur Häggblad (Sweden) and Oddbjørn Hagen (Norway) on the anchor leg went off course and lost 10 minutes, allowing Germany to take the silver. In 1935 Finland won again in a tough fight against Norway.
The relay was the first Nordic skiing event in the 1936 Games. Sixteen teams were entered, far more than in the World Championships 1933-1935. Finland had two of their world champions from 1935 on their team, Sulo Nurmela and Klaes Karppinen, anchorman from 1935. Nurmela was now selected for the first leg. Norway had an almost identical team as the silver lineup from 1935, the only difference being that Trygve Brodahl was replaced by his younger brother, Sverre. The Norwegians also put their anchorman from 1935, Hagen, on the opening leg.
The cross-country relay developed into one of the most thrilling events of the Games. On the first leg Hagen, skiing for Norway, pulled away from Nurmela and Sweden's John Berger when they both fell, and had a one minute lead on Finland and Sweden at the exchange. On the second leg, Olaf Hoffsbakken increased Norway’s lead to 1:23. Erik Larsson was able to catch Karppinen and brought Sweden into silver position, closely followed by Finland. On the third leg Brodahl passed the relay over to Bjarne Iversen with a 1:22 lead ahead of Finland, with Sweden almost another minute back, seemingly out of contention for the gold. On Finland’s anchor leg Kalle Jalkanen had noticed that Iversen, the less merited skier on the Norwegian team, was a good technician on the easier part of the course, but his weak point was obviously uphill. The first half of the course was mostly uphill, and Jalkanen decided to give all he had from the start. His tactics succeeded. He caught the nervous Iversen halfway, they stayed together for another 2-3 km., and then Jalkanen made his final move and was able to leave Iversen 30 m. behind. The winning margin for Finland was 6 seconds.
Jalkanen was the hero of the day with the fastest leg time of all participants. Two years later he was celebrated as world champion over 50 km. on his home ground in Lahti, but on September 5th 1941 he was killed in action on the Kareleian Isthmus in the Continuation War against Soviet Union.