Sami Jauhojärvi held off Russia's Nikita Kriukov on the final stretch of the Sochi cross-country track to seal a sensational Olympic gold for him and Iivo Niskanen in men's team sprint on Wednesday.
Over the six legs, the Finnish duo never lost sight of the leading pack, and ultimately a shrewd move by Jauhojärvi as the anchors glided into the cross-country stadium secured Finland its first Winter Olympic gold medal since the 2002 games in Salt Lake City.
“I can't describe it yet,” Jauhojärvi commented in an interview with YLE after the event.
As Jauhojärvi, Kriukov and Germany's Tim Tscharnke emerged neck and neck from the final curve, the lines of Jauhojärvi and the German cross, causing the latter to hit the ground. Kriukov managed to stay on his skis and mustered a final challenge that was fought off by the resolute Jauhojärvi.
Before the event, the experienced Finn had reminded that the race is likely to be his last chance to win a long-coveted Olympic medal.
The protest consequently lodged by Team Germany, which viewed that Jauhojärvi had impeded the German, was rejected by the jury after some consideration.
Sweden's Teodor Peterson added to his country's cross-country medal tally by capturing third place.
Earlier on Wednesday, Niskanen's sister Kerttu Niskanen and Aino-Kaisa Saarinen had to settle for second place in women's team sprint, after a dominant performance by Norway's Ingvild Flugstad Östberg and Marit Björgen, who led the competition from start to finish.
Björgen impressed particularly by opening up and extending a notable, and ultimately insurmountable, gap for Norway. Similarly to the men's sprint event, Sweden captured bronze following a last-gasp burst from Stina Nilsson to overtake Germany's Denice Herrmann on the final straight.
Both Niskanen and Saarinen thereby won their second silver medals at the Sochi Olympics.
Tero Hakola – HS
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
© HELSINGIN SANOMAT
Photos: Markku Ulander / Lehtikuva