Host City: Innsbruck, Austria
Venue(s): Cross Country Skiing Stadium, Seefeld
Date Started: February 13, 1976
Date Finished: February 13, 1976
Format: Eight shots for each group of five targets. Penalty loop (200 metres) skied for each missed target.
The Soviet Union team was highly favored for another Olympic relay gold, winning the two earlier Olympic relays with clear margins. Out of eight earlier World Championships relays, the Soviet team had won five, but one of their rare losses was at the 1975 World Championships, when Finland was able to defeat the seemingly unbeatable Soviet team.
The 1976 Olympic Biathlon relay developed into a non-thrilling affair regarding the gold and silver medal. The Soviet’s Aleksandr Yelizarov took a commanding lead at the first leg, 42 seconds ahead of the surprise of the leg, the USA’s Lyle Nelson. Finland started badly and was in seventh place at the first exchange, 2:13 behind the Soviets. On the second leg, Finland’s 37-year old veteran Esko Saira brought his team up to second position, 1:08 behind the USSR. Over the last two legs, the Soviet Union increased their lead steadily over Finland, all four team members shooting perfectly. Finland also increased the gap to their pursuers steadily, and was in second place, 1:32 ahead of West Germany, at the last exchange. The fight for the bronze medal developed into a close duel between the two German teams. East Germany’s anchor leg man, Manfred Geyer started his leg in seventh, 1:43 behind the bronze medal position, but advanced steadily after perfect shooting and caught West Germany just before the finish, reaching the finish just three seconds ahead of his West German rival with the second fastest leg time of the day.