KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) - Darya Domracheva and Olga Zaitseva are chasing Olympic biathlon records in the 4x6-kilometer relay on Friday, the final women’s event of the Sochi Games.
Domracheva has already become the first woman to earn three biathlon gold medals at the same Olympics. If Belarus wins the relay, Domracheva will match Ole Einar Bjoerndalen’s overall best mark of four from the 2002 Salt Lake City Games.
Zaitseva was part of the Russian relay team that won gold in 2006 and again in 2010, and can become the first female biathlete to win the same event at three consecutive Games.
Main favorites for gold, however, are world champions Norway alongside Germany and Ukraine, who are 1-2 in this season’s World Cup relay standings.
Here are five things to know about Friday’s 4x6K relay:
DOMRACHEVA’S CALCULATIONS: Domracheva skipped the first Olympic mixed relay Wednesday because she couldn’t see the Belarusian team having a shot at the medals. She proved right as Belarus finished 11th. Domracheva managed to save energy for the women’s relay. It would take a major upset for Belarus to win though.
NORWAY’S MOMENTUM: Tora Berger and Tiril Eckhoff are coming off a dominant victory for Norway in the mixed relay after both also medaled in the individual events. With the Norwegian team’s ski waxing problems from the first week becoming a distant memory, the chances for gold are looking good. Norway is the reigning world relay champion but the team has failed to win any of the three World Cup races so far this season.
UKRAINE’S TACTICS: Just like Belarus with Domracheva, Ukraine decided not to include its best biathletes for the mixed relay and rest sisters Vita and Valj Semerenko. Ukraine won a World Cup relay in Austria two months ago and is runner-up to Germany in the discipline standings. Vita Semerenko won her country’s only biathlon medal of the Sochi Games so far by taking bronze in the sprint.
RUSSIA’S HOPES: With its highest-ranked competitor, Irina Starykh, missing from the Olympics because of a failed doping test, Russia hasn’t been able to give its home crowd much to cheer about. Olga Vilukhina’s silver from the 7.5K sprint is the only medal for the Russian women so far, leaving all hopes on the final event. Led by Zaitseva and Vilukhina, Russia is seeking its third Olympic relay gold in succession and fourth overall, more than any other nation.
GERMANY’S CONSISTENCY: The women’s relay has been part of the Olympics since 1992 - and every time Germany has made it to the podium, including victories in 1998 and 2002. If Germany can medal again Friday, it will match the longest medal streak by a nation in one Winter Olympics women’s event. Finland, Norway (both in cross-country skiing) and Canada (short track) have won medals in the same event for seven straight Olympics. The German women have failed to win a medal so far these Games but that could well change in the final event.
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