KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — In a fitting way to mark to become the most decorated Winter Olympian ever, Ole Einar Bjoerndalen ensured his record 13th medal was gold Wednesday when he helped Norway win the first Olympic mixed relay in biathlon.
Bjoerndalen broke the total medals record he previously shared with retired cross-country skiing great Bjoern Daehlie, and also matched fellow Norwegian’s mark of eight golds. Bjoerndalen won gold earlier at the Sochi Olympics in the men’s sprint biathlon.
Daehlie won eight gold, four silver, and no bronze medals; Bjoerndalen’s haul is now 8-4-1.
The 40-year-old Bjoerndalen can win another medal in the last men’s biathlon event in Sochi, the 4×7.5K relay on Saturday.
Norway’s victory came one day after Bjoerndalen missed out on a medal chance in the 15K mass start event, when he was in fourth position when missing four targets in his final shooting.
In the mixed relay, Tora Berger faulted twice, but Tiril Eckhoff, Bjoerndalen and Emil Hegle Svendsen all shot cleanly for Norway. They finished in 1 hour, 9 minutes and 17 seconds.
Czech Republic was 32.6 seconds behind to win silver, and Italy came in 58.2 seconds behind to take bronze.
Berger led the race before missing twice in the standing shooting and dropping to fifth, 14.9 behind Dorothea Wierer of Italy. But Berger recovered and overtook the Italian on the final lap.
Eckhoff lost Norway’s lead to Gabriela Soukalova, despite the Czech having to reload three times.
Bjoerndalen started 1.1 second behind Jaroslav Soukup and stayed in the Czech’s slipstream for the first lap. Soukup missed once, giving the Norwegian an 11.7-second lead leaving the shooting range.
Bjoerndalen didn’t miss in his standing shooting, either, while Soukup faulted once again, giving a 43.1-second lead to Norway’s final starter, Svendsen.
Coming off his gold-medal victory in the 15K mass start the day before, Svendsen lost time on the track to Ondrej Moravec but held onto a decent margin when his Czech chaser missed twice.
The Norwegian anchor started celebrating after his final shooting, certain of winning a second gold medal in two days.
France, led by two-time gold medalist Martin Fourcade, was well off the place in seventh place.
The United States, seeking its first Olympic medal in the sport, was more than three minutes behind the leaders in ninth place.
After days of fog and drizzle, the race took place in clear, evening conditions.
The mixed relay is new to the Olympic program but has been an established part of the World Cup circuit for many years and was first included in the annual biathlon world championships in 2005, with Norway winning the title for the past three years.