Host City: Nagano, Japan
Venue(s): Hakuba Ski Jumping Stadium, Hakuba; Snow Harp, Hakuba
Date Started: February 19, 1998
Date Finished: February 20, 1998
Format: Normal hill ski jumping and 4 x 5 kilometre relay skiing; placements determined by points table. Three members per team, with all ski jump scores to count towards team total. Pursuit-style cross-country relay race, with skiers leaving in order of their finish in the ski jumping, so that final placement determined by final placement in cross-country ski race.
Japan had won the 1992 and 1994 Olympic gold medals and the 1993 and 1995 World Championships. But their wins in 1994 and 1995 had been so dominant that the FIS changed the rules, changing the team relay from a 3 x 10 event to a 4 x 5 km race. This would seem to favor the Norwegians who had stronger skiers. Although Japan won the 1995 World Championships under the new format, Norway was second and at the 1997 Worlds, Japan dropped off the podium with Norway winning the gold. Japan had the home course advantage and their best athletes, [Kenji Ogiwara], had won the 1997 World Championship individually, so they were still to be considered. Finland won the jumping portion of the event, but it was extremely close, with the top five teams having a shot at the gold, as the start margins for the relay were only 4 seconds for Austria, 8 seconds for Norway, 9 seconds for the Czech Republic, and 21 seconds for Japan. The ski relay was held in a pouring rain, just as in the individual event. Norway’s [Halldor Skard, Jr.] passed Finland’s [Samppa Lajunen] early on and gave Norway the lead at the first exchange. The next three Norwegians skiers expanded the lead on each leg and they won easily, crossing 1:18.9 ahead of Finland. Their anchor leg, [Bjarte Engen Vik], had such a comfortable lead that he skied the last 600 metres carrying a Norwegian flag. France held on for the bronze, while Japan finished back in fifth place. At the 1999 World Championships, Finland would get revenge, winning the gold medal narrowly over Norway.