Sweden wins gold in women's 4.5km cross-country relay
FEB 15, 2014 6:08a ET
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia -- Charlotte Kalla erased a 25-second deficit on the final leg and won a three-way sprint at the end to give Sweden the Olympic gold in the women's 4x5-kilometer cross-country relay. Heavy pre-race favorite Norway failed to win a medal.
Kalla was far behind Finland's Krista Lahteenmaki and Germany's Denise Herrmann after the final exchange but gradually erased the deficit and caught up to the two leaders going into the stadium.
On the final straight, the Swede overtook both and beat Lahteenmaki by 0.5 seconds. Herrmann and Germany settled for bronze.
Defending champion Norway lost a women's relay for the first time since 2009. Four-time gold medalist Marit Bjoergen couldn't eat into her 33-second deficit on the anchor leg as Norway finished fifth.
The win provided Sweden its first gold medal in the Sochi Games. Kalla won her third medal of the games, after taking silver in both the skiathlon and the 10K classical race.
Kalla took gold in the 10K freestyle race in Vancouver, but this was her most impressive Olympic performance yet.
Sweden seemed to have lost its chance at a gold medal after Anna Haag couldn't keep up with Finland's Kerttu Niskanen and Germany's Claudia Nystad on the third leg, falling 25.7 seconds behind. But with Sweden's king and queen looking on, Kalla immediately began a relentless pursuit that saw her cut the deficit to 13.2 seconds with 2.5K left. She kept closing the gap on the last lap until she joined the leading duo shortly before going into the stadium.
She was still third at the last curve before the final straight, but used an inside track to go in front and opened up a gap that she kept all the way to the finish line.
After collapsing into the snow, she was immediately mobbed by her teammates in the finish area.
The Norwegian team featured the top four women in the overall World Cup standings, but they again seemed to struggle with the warm conditions at the Laura Cross-Country and Biathlon Center. Therese Johaug lost ground to the leaders on the second classical-style leg and Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen fell even further behind. That left Bjoergen with an all but insurmountable deficit, and she saved her energy on the last lap, finishing 53.6 seconds behind Sweden.
France finished fourth, 45 seconds back.