Norway wins cross-country relay gold, Canada 9th without Alex Harvey

Harvey reportedly pulled out to save himself for 50km event

Norway wins cross-country relay gold, Canada 9th without Alex Harvey
Norway's Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo crosses the finish line to win team gold in the men's 4x10-kilometre classic freestyle cross country relay race. © Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images

By Philip O'Connor, Reuters

Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo secured a majestic victory in the men's 4x10-kilometre relay with a stunning late spurt as Norway won its fifth gold medal in eight cross-country skiing competitions at the Pyeongchang Games on Sunday.

The lead changed hands several times during a thrilling final lap as the Norwegian battled it out with Denis Spitsov, representing the Olympic Athletes from Russia, who took silver 9.4 seconds behind, with France nabbing the bronze.

Canada finished in ninth place, three minutes and 41 seconds behind the Norwegians. Toronto's Len Valjas raced the first leg, followed by Graeme Killick of Fort McMurray, Alta., Russell Kennedy of Canmore, Alta., and Whitehorse's Knute Johnsgaard — who was a last-minute addition after top Canadian racer Alex Harvey pulled out a day before the race.

Harvey is reportedly saving himself for the 50 event.

A stunning second leg by Alexander Bolshunov looked to have laid the foundations for a first gold medal for the OAR, but a disastrous third leg by Alexey Chervotkin saw their nearly 30-second lead wiped out.

Norway's skiathlon gold medallist Simen Hegstad Krueger battled his way back to the top of the field, setting up sprint champion Klaebo for a dramatic finish.

Spitsov breathed new life into the Russian challenge on the final leg as the French fell away, reeling in the leading pair and making it a two-horse race for gold.

At times Klaebo seemed to lack the power that underpinned his glorious sprint victory, passing Spitsov only for the Russian to move up the gears and stay with him, but he had no answer when the young Norwegian finally made his late break for gold.

Bare-headed on a sunny but chilly afternoon, Klaebo, the youngest member of the team by more than three years, thundered away over the final kilometre and cruised across the finish line into the arms of his ecstatic team mates.

Spitsov followed shortly afterwards, embracing his rival and congratulating him on his second gold of the Games following an epic battle, with Adrien Backscheider sliding home 36.9 seconds after the winner to take a well-deserved bronze for France. 

With files from CBC Sports