SOCHI, February 22 (R-Sport) – Russia claimed an improbable biathlon team relay gold on Saturday after a last-gasp shooting calamity from Norway's Emil Hegle Svendsen set Anton Shipulin on a course to victory.
Norway had been out in front at the final standing shooting but the usually dependable Svendsen missed twice. Shipulin shot clean along with Simon Schempp and overtook the German to score a gold that looked unlikely for most of the race at the Laura biathlon complex.
The Germans finished 3.5 seconds behind the Russians, with the Austrians claiming the bronze 29.8 seconds back.
It means host nation Russia equals two medal records. It now has 29 medals overall, the same as the Soviet team of 1988, and 11 gold, matching the total in Lillehammer 20 years ago.
The result, Russia's first biathlon title at its home games in the sport's last event, denied Norwegian legend Ole Einar Bjoerndalen a record ninth career Olympic gold.
At one stage the Russians had been half a minute off the pace, as Bjoerndalen took control in the third leg with a lead of more than 20 seconds over the Germans. But despite shooting clean, the 40-year-old allowed Arnd Peiffer to reel him in and by the final changeover there was less than ten seconds in it.
Dmitry Malyshko kept pace with Peiffer to squeeze the field together for the dramatic final leg finish.
The other victorious Russians were lead-off man Alexey Volkov and Evgeny Ustyugov. There was no place in the team for individual bronze medalist Evgeny Garanichev.
Russia's other biathlon medals have come from the women's relay with silver, and Olga Vilyukhina's silver in the women's sprint.
The result also puts a gloss on an otherwise disappointing biathlon campaign from the Russians on their home track.
The Norwegians, meanwhile, are denied a fourth biathlon gold of the games after Bjoerndalen took the sprint, Svendsen the mass start and the mixed team the relay – an appropriate reflection of the nation’s domination of the sport.
An expected challenge from a strong France team led by pursuit and individual champion Martin Fourcade never materialized, with the team finishing eighth.
Updates with details.