Host City: Sapporo, Japan
Venue(s): Makomanai Biathlon Site, Sapporo
Date Started: February 11, 1972
Date Finished: February 11, 1972
Format: Eight shots for each group of five targets. Penalty loop (200 metres) skied for each missed target.
The defending champion Soviet Union was a heavy favorite for the relay gold after winning all three World Championships from 1969-1971. Norway was expected to be their closest rivals, having won silver behind the Soviets in that period. Finland and East Germany were considered as medal contenders.
The first leg gave some unexpected results. Home favorite Isao Ono hit all his targets and skied fast enough to reach the first exchange 36 seconds ahead of his closest rival, East Germany’s silver medalist from the individual event, Hansjörg Knauthe. In third place was another big surprise, Great Britain’s Malcolm Hirst, only 8 seconds behind East Germany, but closely followed by Sweden and Norway. Finland and the Soviet Union were further behind, as the Soviet’s lead-off man Aleksandr Tikhonov had to ski two penalty loops and was 1:19 behind the leader. On the second leg Japan’s Shozo Sasaki was penalized five penalty loops and dropped from first to 13th and last place at the second exchange. After an excellent race Rinnat Safin advanced the Soviet team from ninth place into a clear lead, over one minute ahead of East Germany. Allen Morse had brought the USA team from seventh to third place, and Giovanni Astegiano moved Italy from 11th to fourth, both passing Sweden and Norway.
On the third leg, Soviet’s Ivan Byakov, in spite of skiing a penalty loop, increased the Soviet lead over East Germany to 1:40, and Sweden’s Torsten Wadman, with the fastest leg time, was only nine seconds behind the East Germans. USA was still doing well in fourth place, but Italy had dropped back to eighth. Finland had started to move and was fifth, over half a minute ahead of Norway. The Soviet anchor man Viktor Mamatov safely brought his team a gold medal, almost three minutes ahead of Finland. Mauri Röppänen had the fastest time on the last leg and advanced from fifth position to a silver medal, 20 seconds ahead of East Germany. Olympic champion Magnar Solberg was too far behind at the exchange, but passed Sweden and USA on the last leg and brought his team up to fourth place.