Host City: Grenoble, France
Venue(s): , Autrans
Date Started: February 14, 1968
Date Finished: February 14, 1968
Norway had never before won an Olympic gold medal in the relay event, in spite of been able to claim seven individual Olympic gold medals in the cross country events before the 1968 relay, but this time they were favored among the experts. They had won the 1966 World Championships decisively, mostly thanks to their opening-leg-man, Odd Martinsen, nicknamed “Stafett-Martin” for his ability to keep high speed and build up a gap to his competitors. In Oslo in 1966 he had built up a decisive lead on the opening leg of 1:08. On a sunny day in Autrans with blistering ski conditions Martinsen did it again. He reached the first exchange 40 seconds ahead of Sweden and Soviet, and leaving co-favorites Finland over one minute behind. The other three skiers on the Norwegian team widened the gap, all having the fastest time on their legs, and the victory margin to runner-up Sweden was 1:40. The struggle for the other medals was most interesting to watch. Sweden and Soviet Union stayed together for the first two legs, leaving Finland over a minute behind. On the third leg, Sweden’s Gunnar Larsson left the Soviet Union’s Valery Tarakanov 40 seconds behind, and Kalevi Laurila had brought Finland into the fight for the bronze medal, reaching the exchange only 26 seconds behind Tarakanov. Assar Rönnlund – who later that year married double gold medalist Toini Gustafsson - easily secured the silver medal for Sweden with his anchor leg. Eero Mäntyranta caught the Soviet Union’s Vyacheslav Vedenin just before the finishing line and outsprinted his rival by 0.5 seconds in the fight for the bronze medal.