Host City: Sapporo, Japan
Venue(s): Makomanai Cross Country Events Site, Sapporo
Date Started: February 12, 1972
Date Finished: February 12, 1972
After their impressive results in the two individual events, the Soviet ladies were highly favored for the relay. Their strongest opponents was expected to be defending Olympic champion Norway and Finland, who came third at the 1970 World Championships. East Germany had surprised everybody by placing second at the 1970 World Championship behind the Soviet team, ahead of Finland and Norway, but their ladies had not impressed in the individual events in Sapporo, with Renate Fischer’s ninth place in the 10 km race their best result.
On the first leg, Soviet’s Lyubov Mukhachova built up a clear lead, reaching the exchange over 15 seconds ahead of Helena Takalo for Finland. Four teams were close together, over half a minute behind Finland, with Helena Šikolová putting Czechoslovakia into third place, closely followed by Norway, East Germany and West Germany. Sweden, silver medalist from the 1968 Games, was far behind in eighth place, 1:43 behind the leader.
On the second leg Alevtina Olyunina increased the Soviet lead to 25 seconds with Finland’s Hilkka Kuntola still in a secure second position. Norway’s Aslaug Dahl had left the other teams behind and advanced to third, followed by East Germany, Czechoslovakia and West Germany.
Double Olympic Champion Galina Kulakova on the anchor leg secured the victory for Soviet and her third Olympic gold medal with a comfortable margin, 1:03 ahead of Finland’s Marjatta Kajosmaa. Norway’s Berit Mørdre-Lammedal had no problems to hold off her opponents for the bronze medal. Michaela Endler for West Germany, who started out as sixth, passed Czechoslovakia quickly and was able to outsprint East Germany’s Anni Unger in the final part of the race in a close battle for fourth place.