Host City: Salt Lake City, United States
Venue(s): Soldier Hollow, Wasatch Mountain State Park
Date Started: February 17, 2002
Date Finished: February 17, 2002
Over the last two Winter Olympics the battle for this gold had been between Norway and Italy, with Italy winning the “The Great Race,” the epic 1994 struggle, while Norway had won in 1998. But the winning margins had been only 4/10ths of a second in 1994 and 2/10ths in 1998. Norway had won the 2001 World Championships, while Italy had not made the podium. But the event would again be a titanic fight between the two teams. Right from the start they established themselves, with Norway leading on the first leg by just over eight seconds ahead of Italy. Italy’s Giorgio Di Centa fell back on the second leg, dropping his team to fourth, with Norway still leading, by 11 seconds over Germany. But Pietro Piller Cottrer brought Italy back, skiing the fastest leg of the event so far, and making up significant time on Kristen Skjeldal, as Norway entered the anchor leg only a ½-second ahead of Italy. Thomas Alsgaard and Cristian Zorzi then put on a show, posting the two fastest times of the entire race, with Zorzi closing just slightly on Alsgaard. In the stadium he passed Alsgaard about 200 metres from the line, but Alsgaard fought back and brought Norway another gold medal, defeating Zorzi and Italy by 0.3 seconds. In three relay races, over eight years, and 120 kilometres, Norway and Italy had battled to a near skiing death, the cumulative winning margins less than a full second, and Norway leading on total time by 0.1 seconds. There were 13 other teams in the race, but nobody seemed to notice, although Germany got up for the bronze medal, almost a minute back.