Host City: Lake Placid, United States
Venue(s): Mt. Van Hoevenberg Recreation Area, Lake Placid
Date Started: February 20, 1980
Date Finished: February 20, 1980
Finland was the defending champion and Sweden the reigning 1978 World Champion, but both teams failed badly on the first leg of the 1980 Olympic cross-country relay. Finland was down in eighth place, 1:56 behind the leader, followed by Sweden 2:18 behind after the first leg. Vasily Rochev had put the Soviet team into the lead, 24 seconds ahead of Norway’s Lars Erik Eriksen, followed by USA, Italy, Switzerland and West Germany. On the second leg, Norway’s long distance specialist Per Knut Aaland surprised by catching Soviet skiier Nikolay Bazhukov and giving Norway a one-second lead at the exchange. The 20-year old, Thomas Eriksson, advanced Sweden from ninth to third, but was 2:08 behind the leader. On the third leg, Ove Aunli, bronze medalist from the 15 km race, could not match Yevgeny Belyeyev, who brought the Soviet Union back into the lead, leaving Norway 52 seconds behind. In the close battle for third place, West Germany was leading, closely followed by Italy. Matti Pitkänen, who had the unfortunate fate of coming fourth in all the individual races at the 1978 World Championships, had brought Finland up to fifth, 41 seconds behind the bronze position, and Sweden had dropped down to sixth, 11 seconds behind their Nordic neighbors. On the last leg, Nikolay Zimyatov easily led the Soviet team to another gold medal, 1:42 ahead of Norway’s Oddvar Brå. The fight for the bronze medal was much closer. Finland’s Juha Mieto went immediately away from his rival in the 15 km race, Thomas Wassberg, and soon overtook Italy, passing West Germany’s young Jochen Behle in the final stage of his anchor leg, and securing the bronze medal for Finland. Wassberg passed Italy midway on his anchor leg and brought reigning World Champion Sweden into a disappointing fifth place in the final standings.