Lenzerheide was the stage, this morning, of the European Ski Orienteering Championships’ third final. Mixed teams and the spectacularity of relay races were ingredients for an exciting Mixed Sprint Relay, attended by 26 teams of two elements including at least one woman, representing twelve countries. Played officially for the first time at Sumy, Ukraine, in 2012, the Sprint Mixed Relay had seen Russia get the gold in the three previous editions. Today, however, everything would be different, with the Russians unable to recover from a weak start and finishing out of the podium.
European vice-champion 2014, the team nº 1 of Bulgaria was the fastest in the first leg, with Antoniya Grigorova-Burgova to deliver the testimony to Stanimir Belomazhev with a lead of six seconds over the Czech Hana Hancikova and at a time when the first 14 teams rolled with a difference of one minute from each other. Overriding the difference of 32 seconds that separated him from Belomazhev, Jorgen Madslien, of Norway's second team, gave the note of sensation on the second leg launching Anna Ulvensoen to the command of the operations with 11 seconds ahead of Grigorova-Burgova. With the Norwegian couple on a good day, the advantage has continued to grow, standing on 47 seconds at the entrance for the fifth leg.
It was the time of the great decisions. Separated by narrow 30 seconds, the first teams of Sweden, Bulgaria and Russia waited a stumble from the Norwegian team to storm the lead. Anna Ulvensoen showed signs of accusing the pressure, eventually losing more than one minute for her most direct opponent, the Swedish Josefine Engström, falling to the third place. The second position was now owned by Sweden's second team, after a sensational performance of Tove Alexandersson, on her debut at the Championships. The first teams of Norway and Bulgaria fought hard for the silver medal, while the Russian Andrey Lamov needed to recover 28 seconds to even have the chance to get the bronze.
The last leg was epic. Big figure of this Final, Jorgen Madslien would be early out of action thanks to a “miss punch” on the first control. Erik Rost knew how to manage the advantage of 19 seconds over Andreas Holmberg, giving to Sweden a historic title and ensuring, at the same time, his second gold medal in two days. Belomazhev and Kvale fought to the limit of their strength, with the Bulgarian being stronger in the last meters and beating his opponent for two seconds. With an incredible performance, Lamov was the fastest in the last leg, but the time recovered would eventually prove insufficient to reach the medals.
1. Sweden (Erik Rost / Josefine Engström) 45:35
2. Bulgaria (Stanimir Belomazhev / Antoniya Grigorova-Burgova) 46:09 (+ 0:34)
3. Norway (Hans Jorgen Kvale / Audhild Bakken Rognstad) 46:11 (+ 0:36)
4. Russia (Andrey Lamov / Iuliia Tarasenko) 46:18 (+ 0:43)
5. Finland (Staffan Tunis / Mervi PESU) 46:19 (+ 0:44)
6. Switzerland (Gion Schnyder / Carmen Strub) 47:00 (+ 1:25)
Please see the complete results and further information at http://www.skiolem15.ch/.
[Photo: Stanimir Belomazhev / facebook.com/StanimirBelomazhev]