Host City: Sapporo, Japan
Venue(s): Makomanai Cross Country Events Site, Sapporo
Date Started: February 13, 1972
Date Finished: February 13, 1972
The cross-country relay was expected to be a close duel between defending Olympic Champion Norway and the reigning 1970 World Champion, the Soviet Union. At the first exchange, three teams were close together. Norway’s Oddvar Brå and Sweden’s Thomas Magnusson came in together, with Soviet’s Vladimir Voronkov only two seconds behind, while Switzerland was in fourth place, 44 seconds behind the leader. On the second leg, Soviet Yury Skobov and Norway’s Pål Tyldum were close together at the exchange, with Sweden’s Lars-Göran Åslund in third place over a minute behind. When Norway’s 20-year old Ivar Formo built up a 1:01 lead on the third leg over Soviet’s Fyodor Simashov, it looked like an easy victory for the defending champions. Sweden in third was now only 20 seconds behind the Soviets, and the silver medalist from the Nordic Combined in 1968, Alois Kälin, brought Switzerland up from sixth to fourth, only two seconds behind Sweden. Soviet’s anchor leg skier Vyacheslav Vedenin started strongly, and after 5 km he had reduced the gap to the Norwegian Johs Harviken to around half a minute. The Soviets now began to hope for victory, and 100 m from home Vedenin had caught Harviken. In a desperate try to counterattack, Harviken fell, and Vedenin secured Soviet’s second Olympic relay gold, 16 years after their first win in Cortina d’Ampezzo. The fight for the bronze medal also ended in drama. Sweden’s Sven-Åke Lundbäck and Switzerland’s Edi Hauser arrived in the finishing stretch together, then Lundbäck fell and Hauser garnered for Switzerland their first ever Olympic cross-country relay medal. Alois Kälin is still the last skier, thru 2006, with Olympic medals both in cross-country skiing and Nordic Combined. The team from East Germany, who had won a surprising silver medal in the 1970 World Championships, had the same lineup in Sapporo as they had in 1970, but ended in a disappointing sixth place, over five minutes behind the winning team.