KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — After a fiasco in the women's cross-country relay, Norway gets a chance to make amends right away in the men's event on Sunday.
For once, though, the Norwegians aren't considered the favorite.
Defending champion Sweden has had three different skiers on the podium in the two long-distance events so far at the Sochi Olympics, and all three were part of the team that won the 4x10-kilometer relay in Vancouver four years ago.
Of the Norwegians, meanwhile, only Martin Johnsrud Sundby has a long-distance medal so far, a bronze in the 30-kilometer skiathlon. Add the fact that anchor Petter Northug has been struggling, and Norway finds itself the underdog to its Scandinavian rival. Especially given the team's problems with finding the right wax setup in the women's relay on Saturday, where the heavily favored Norwegians only finished fifth — behind winner Sweden.
"We're far from being the favorites," Sundby said.
Norway, though, has won the relay at the last two world championships, with Northug winning a sprint for the gold medal both times against two different Swedish anchors. And the Swedes know that if they can't shake Northug off, he's still a favorite against skiathlon silver medalist Marcus Hellner in a sprint.