Host City: Innsbruck, Austria
Venue(s): Cross Country Skiing Stadium, Seefeld
Date Started: February 12, 1976
Date Finished: February 12, 1976
For the first time in the Olympics, the female cross country relay was with a team of four skiers, from 1952 and until 1972 the relay for women was organised with three skiers per team.
Defending champion Soviet Union was the clear favorite for this event, having won the relay in the 1974 World Championships well ahead of East Germany and Czechoslovakia, unexpected silver and bronze medal winners. The Nordic countries Finland, Sweden and Norway were easily beaten and finished off the medal podium.
On the first leg of the 1976 Olympic relay three teams went away early, and at the exchange Swedenâs [Lena Carlzon] was first, two seconds ahead of Finlandâs [Liisa Suihkonen] with the Soviet Unionâs bronze medalist from the individual 5 km race, [Nina Baldycheva], a little surprisingly another two seconds behind. The rest of the field was over half a minute behind. On the second leg, the Sovietâs [Zinaida Amosova], placing sixth in both individual events earlier in the Games, was able to build up an 18-second lead over Finland, with Sweden in third another eight seconds behind. On the third leg the newly crowned Olympic 10 km champion [Raisa Smetanina] decided the race, extending the Soviet lead over Finland to one minute. East Germanyâs 20-year old [Barbara Petzold] brought her team up from fifth to third position at the exchange, two seconds ahead of Sweden. On the last leg, [Galina Kulakova] led her team to an easy victory and collected her fourth Olympic gold medal. Finland was a clear second, and East Germanyâs [Veronika Schmidt] held off Sweden in the fight for the bronze medal.