Host City: Sarajevo, Yugoslavia
Venue(s): Veliko Polje, Igman
Date Started: February 17, 1984
Date Finished: February 17, 1984
Format: Eight shots for each group of five targets. Penalty loop (150 metres) skied for each missed target.
The Soviet Union had a unique history in the Olympic biathlon relay, winning all four events since the introduction of the event at the 1968 Winter Olympics. But this time few experts would put their money on the Soviet team. In the individual events, their best placing in the 20 km was a very disappointing 17th place. The sprint was a little better, the three Soviet competitors placing 5-10-11. But they had won the 1983 World Championships with two teenagers on their team, and three of the four team-members from 1983 were on the 1984 Olympic team. East Germany was considered by most experts as favorites, and Norway and West Germany were strong medal contenders.
The Soviets had put their most inexperienced athlete on the first leg, [Dmitry Vasilyev], a 21-year-old from Leningrad who was competing in an international biathlon championship for the first time. He had a modest 32nd place from the 20 km race as his only international experience. But Vasilyev did well on his opening leg, giving his team a 1:06 lead over Finland. Czechoslovakia, East Germany and West Germany followed closely, only three seconds separating the teams from second to fifth. Norway was down in ninth place, over two minutes behind the leader. Their opening leg skier, [Odd Lirhus], 1978 World Champion in 20 km, had trouble with his second shooting round and had to ski two penalty laps. On the second leg, [Yury Kashkarov] defended his team’s lead, but East Germany’s [Frank-Peter Roesch] gained over half a minute and was only 26 seconds behind at the exchange. Olympic sprint champion [Erik Kvalfoss] had brought Norway back into the fight for medals, moving into third, 56 seconds behind the leader, with West Germany in fourth place, 52 seconds behind Norway.
On the third leg, the Soviet Union’s most experienced man, [Algimantas Šalna], ran into trouble on his second shooting round and had to ski two penalty laps. He was overtaken by East Germany’s [Matthias Jacob], who sent anchorman [Frank Ullrich] out 19 seconds ahead of the Soviet’s 19-year-old [Sergey Bulygin]. [Peter Angerer] had brought West Germany into bronze medal position only 28 seconds behind the leader, but Norway’s [Rolf Storsveen] had also done well and was only 44 seconds behind, still in position for a medal. The leading quartet was now at least 3-4 minutes ahead of the rest of the field. Ullrich was clearly, as shown by his individual appearances, in far from his best skiing shape. Norway’s [Kjell Søbak] came strongly from behind, and before the last shooting round the Soviet Union, West Germany and Norway passed Ullrich. The three teams came into the final series of standing shots close together. Young Bulygin showed good nerves and had five hits in a row. Søbak and West Germany’s [Fritz Fischer] had to use two extra shots and left the shooting range together 15 seconds behind Bulygin. The young Siberian fought bravely and secured the Soviet Union their fifth Olympic relay gold in a row, 12 seconds ahead of Norway’s Søbak, who was able to keep Fischer 1.2 seconds behind at the finish in a close battle for silver. Frank Ullrich brought East Germany home to a disappointing fourth place, losing over 1½ minutes to his competitors on his last leg despite a good shooting day. The Olympic relay was Ullrich’s last appearance as an active biathlete, a sad end to a great career.