Heartbreak is part and parcel of the Olympics, but the German cross-country team had the rare opportunity to taste two different flavors of heartbreak in a single discipline.
In the women's cross-country team sprint classic final, an overly adjectival event that requires a two-person team to take six laps (three apiece) along the course, the Scandinavian countries continued their dominance. Fifteen of the 21 medals of the discipline went to one of Norway, Sweden or Finland going in to Wednesday's finals, and that trend continued as the finalists crossed the line.
The Norwegian team of Marit Bjoergen and Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg won the gold medal with a time of 16:04.05. Outside of the first lap where they finished behind the Finns, they led the entire way. For their part, Finland's Kerttu Niskanen and Aino-Kaisa Saarinen received the silver medal for their 16:13.14 time. Ida Ingemarsdotter and Stina Nilsson of Sweden got the bronze by coming in at 16:23.82, just 1.15 seconds ahead of the German team. The Americans (Sophie Caldwell and Kikkan "Kikkanimal" Randall) came in eighth out of 10 teams with a 16:48.08 time.
Things were a bit more helter-skelter on the men's side of the competition, helped perhaps by the usually stalwart Norwegians being the last to the first swap.
On the last lap, there was a three-way heated rush up the top of the final hill between Germany, Finland and Russia when a fresh form of tragedy struck the German team. Tim Tscharnke tripped on Finn Sami Jauhojaervi's ski pole and took a spill, allowing Jauhojaervi and Russia's Nikita Kriukov to battle it out for gold.
The Finns prevailed, as Jauhojaervi and Iivo Niskanen won gold with a 23:14.89 time. The Russians, Kriukov and Maxim Vylegzhanin, got to silver at 23:15.86. Sweden (represented by Emil Joensson and Teodor Peterson) took advantage of Tscharnke's fall to nab bronze with a 23:30.01 time. Germany ended up falling to seventh, behind the sixth-place American team of Simeon Hamilton and Erik Bjornsen. The Americans finished at 23:49.95.