Just as in the European Championships 3 years ago, also in Switzerland, the home nation took the gold medals in the Sprint Relay, with silver for Sweden and bronze for Norway. The gaps at the finish were 55 seconds and 1 minute 27 seconds down on the winners’ time.
On a fine day in Neuchâtel, 22 national teams set out on the 4-leg relay, run in the order woman-man-man-woman. Early on it was Lina Strand for Sweden setting the pace, closely followed by Simona Aebersold for the home country. Strand was 10 seconds up at the second TV control and was going well, but going through a mini-maze of crowd barriers for the second time, she didn’t see the flag behind a small feature. She stopped and went back a short way, and in the process lost crucial seconds. This together with different forking enabled Aebersold to get 4 seconds ahead at the first change-over, sited in the middle of the local football stadium.
Joey Hadorn was the Swiss athlete on second leg, and he proved to be running faster than Sweden’s Gustav Bergman. He too made a small mistake in the maze, but it was insignificant in the overall context and Hadorn handed over to Matthias Kyburz with a lead of 26 seconds. Frederic Tranchand, France ran an excellent leg and brought France into third at the changeover, just ahead of Norway.
Just like Hadorn, Kyburz at the head of the field was the strongest runner – apart from Norway’s Kasper Fosser, who quickly got ahead of Lucas Basset for France. No leading athlete made any significant mistake on this leg, and at the final changeover Switzerland’s lead over Sweden had extended to 52 seconds, with Norway another 28 seconds behind.
Elena Roos is also well-known as a fast sprinter – fifth in the IOF Sprint World Rankings – and she showed her class on the final leg with Sweden’s Sara Hagstrom unable to make any impression. But Sweden finished in a creditable silver-medal position, and bronze went to Norway thanks finally to a strong last-leg run by Andrine Benjaminsen. There was a close sprint finish for fourth, fifth and sixth places.
Decisive moments in the race can be seen as initially Lina Strand’s slip-up, allowing Switzerland to get in front. Then the particularly strong and determined performances by the two Swiss men, Joey Hadorn and Matthias Kyburz, to build up a big lead before the final leg.
Although there were no spectators in the stadium, plenty of local and tourists were taking an interest out on the course – not least when Line Strand ran through the front of an ice-cream queue at high speed! The course was a mixture of town streets and parkland, with a mini-maze near the waterfront and another – including the final 4 controls – actually in the stadium.
This was a fine start to the European Championships; the qualification for the KO-Sprint takes place tomorrow.
- Switzerland (Simona Aebersold, Joey Hadorn, Matthias Kyburz, Elena Roos) 56:55
- Sweden (Lina Strand, Gustav Bergman, Emil Svensk, Sara Hagstrom) + 0.55
- Norway (Victoria Hæstad Bjørnstad, Eskil Kinneberg, Kasper Fosser, Andrine Benjaminsen) + 1.27
- Czech Republic +2.23
- Finland + 2.43
- France + 2.44
Interview with the winners: