U.S. biathlon relay team finishes in 13th place

ANDREW MEDICHINI / The Associated Press

Just a few days after pronouncing his Olympics "horrible," Ole Einar Bjoerndalen was revising his opinion.

A gold medal has that kind of impact.

The superstar collected his 11th Olympic medal, and his sixth gold, by leading Norway to victory Friday in the men's 4x7.5- kilometer biathlon race at Olympic Whistler Park. The race was Bjoerndalen's final chance to medal in Vancouver and the win left him one shy of tying fellow Norwegian legend Bjoern Daehlie's Winter Olympics record of 12 medals, eight of them gold.

But Daehlie shouldn't rest easy just yet. Bjoerndalen is 36, but he says he'll be back for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia.

"I will prepare the next four years and do my best and I will be in shape in Sochi," he told reporters after the race.

Bjoerndalen collected four gold medals at last year's World Championships and four at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake, where he was such a dominating skier that he made both the biathlon and cross country ski teams for Norway.

But Vancouver had been pretty much a disappointment.

Bjoerndalen earned a silver medal in the 20-kilometer race after missing his final target and seeing gold slip from his grasp. And while silver isn't exactly horrible, two of his other races were indeed dreadful: A snowstorm hampered him during a 17th-place finish in the 10-kilometer race, and in the 15-K mass start, he missed an astonishing 7 of 10 targets to finish 27th in a field of 30.

"These Olympic Games are very disappointing for me," Bjoerndalen said at the time. "Horrible."

His assessment after the triumphant relay?

"Now, it's the perfect Games for me," he said.

Bjoerndalen was able to savor his gold Friday, turning a lead of less than one second into a 38.8-second advantage -- enough of a gap for him to grab a Norwegian flag and wave it as he glided across the finish line. He celebrated with teammates Tarjei Boe, Emil Hegle Svendsen and Halvard Hanevold, who showed that 40 isn't too old for gold.

The United States finished 13th in the 19-team field. Kasilof's Jay Hakkinen and Anchorage's Jeremy Teela each skied a leg for the Americans, who missed 12 of 40 targets.

Lowell Bailey, the team's best shooter Friday with only one miss, put the United States in 13th place after the scramble leg. Hakkinen (three misses) moved the team to 12th place and Tim Burke (three misses) held that position through three legs. Teela missed five shots on the anchor leg as the team slipped back to 13th place.

Norway won with a time of 1 hour, 21 minutes, 38.1 seconds. The United States finished 6:20.2 back.

Austria edged Russia to claim the silver by two-tenths of a second, 38.6 seconds behind Norway.

Each racer skied 7.5 kilometers and made two stops at the shooting range. Nineteen countries participated.

Daily News staff and wire reports