KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — Russia overcame eight missed targets and the absence of Yevgeny Garanichev to win the men’s 4×7.5-kilometer relay at the Sochi Games on Saturday, sending the home nation top of the Olympic medals table with 11 golds.
Alexey Volkov, Yevgeny Ustyugov and Dmitry Malyshko kept Russia in third position for most of the race before anchor Anton Shipulin beat Germany’s Simon Schempp on the final lap.
Russia, now a record seven-time Olympic relay champion, was 3.5 seconds in front of Germany and 29.8 ahead of bronze medal winner Austria.
The Russians surprisingly left Garanichev out of the team even though he was Russia’s only biathlon medalist at the games before the relay. Garanichev won bronze in the individual race.
Defending champion Norway led for most of the competition but dropped to fourth after anchor Emil Hegle Svendsen missed three targets in his final shooting, denying teammate Ole Einar Bjoerndalen the chance of winning a record ninth career gold medal in the Winter Olympics. Norway came 54.4 behind in fourth.
Bjoerndalen, who was the third starter for Norway, shot flawlessly but still lost 18 seconds of Norway’s 20-second lead over Germany.
Shipulin started the final lap 16.6 behind Svendsen and had to reload twice in his prone shooting, but still managed to close the gap with Norway and Germany.
While Svendsen’s mistakes put Norway out of contention for the medals, Schempp and Shipulin both shot cleanly and left the shooting range almost simultaneously.
The German stayed in the lead until the final kilometer, when Shipulin overtook him and gradually increased the gap.
Austria won its second biathlon medal of the games. Dominik Landertinger won silver in the opening 10K sprint two weeks ago.
Martin Fourcade, who won two golds and one silver in the individual races, finished eighth with France, 1:30.5 behind Russia.
The United States was fourth after the opening leg in which Lowell Bailey shot cleanly, but any hope for a first ever Olympic medal in the sport vanished as second starter Russell Currier had to ski three penalty loops after his prone shooting.
The U.S. finished 16th, more than five minutes off the lead.