ZHANGJIAKOU (REUTERS) - Victoria Carl pulled off a stunning spurt on the final straight to win cross-country gold for Germany in the Olympic team sprint on Wednesday (Feb 16), edging out Sweden and the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC).
The Swedes took the silver, 0.17 seconds behind Germany, with the Russian team 0.71 seconds adrift in a race that exploded into life on the last bend.
After leading for much of the race, Finland left empty-handed and Norway's challenge came unstuck after a broken ski pole.
Concerns over the cold caused the races to be moved to earlier in the afternoon, with each racer taking turns for six laps of the 1.5km course in the classic style, which has provided rich pickings for Finland's skiers, male and female, in Beijing.
They looked strong again as the 10 finalists remained bunched together for the opening half of the race, with 2018 champion team sprint champion Jessie Diggins doing her best to keep the Americans in front.
A battle for position led to a broken ski pole for Tiril Udnes Weng which sent Norway down the rankings and they could not recover to challenge for the medals.
There was little between the teams until the last leg and Sweden's Jonna Sundling was lucky not to fall after colliding with Finland's Krista Parmakoski.
Individual sprint champion Sundling recovered, however, and looked set to claim gold in a battle with Russian Natalia Nepryaeva.
But Carl hurtled around the final bend and chased the Swede down, passing her on the run-in to the line to add a stunning golden victory to Germany's 4x5km relay silver.
"We came to the Olympic Games and we had nobody who said 'oh, we'll come back with a gold medal', and yet today we come back with a gold medal. This is unbelievable," Carl said.
Teammate Katharina Hennig was equally elated to add the sprint gold to the relay silver.
"It means a lot for us, also the silver medal in relay and today the gold medal in team sprint. It means a lot and we are very thankful for the whole team. It's very important for cross-country in Germany," she said.
Sundling told Reuters that she was exhausted by the time she crossed the finish line to secure the silver together with her close friend Maja Dahlqvist.
"My arms and legs were like spaghetti... it's good that the Germans won it, but I said last night that if we got on the podium we would be proud, no matter what medal we got," she said.