Norway grapples with Olympic women's relay fiasco

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Norway's Marit Bjoergen skis past the Olympic rings during the women's 4x5K cross-country relay at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — After seven cross-country skiing events at the Sochi Olympics, Norway has three golds, a silver and three bronze medals.

And yet, suddenly the team is in a crisis.

Especially after Norway failed to even medal in the women's 4x5-kilometer relay on Saturday, a result that came as a major shock and followed a number of disappointing performances in Sochi in the country's top sport.

Now the skiers, coaches, wax technicians and media are all desperately looking for answers ahead of the men's relay on Sunday — for many Norwegians the most important event of the Winter Olympics.

"The way it looks now, it's absolutely a crisis," Norway's head wax technician Knut Nystad told broadcaster TV2 after the women's relay fiasco. "This is a tragedy."

Norway was seen as almost unbeatable in the 4x5K race but finished fifth, nearly a minute behind winner Sweden. Afterward, the Norwegian skiers said the wax team had gotten the setup wrong for the warm conditions, making it impossible to compete.

"Everybody saw that the skis were not good," Therese Johaug said. "But we do our best and I know that the men in the (wax) cabins do their best, but other nations were much better today."

Heidi Weng, though, said she and her teammates also weren't good enough.

"You can't just blame the skis," she said. "It is tough to see because we are so good in relay, we have always been so good, many seconds before the other girls. And today others were better than us."

It was the third race in a row without a medal for Marit Bjoergen, the four-time gold medalist who also struggled in the freestyle sprint and 10K classical race.

Petter Northug, the biggest star on the men's side, is also having a disappointing Olympics and was even dropped for the 15K classical race on Friday, where the best Norwegian finished sixth. Northug is still set to go the anchor leg in the 4x10K relay on Sunday, and a victory there would go a long way toward forgetting the recent disappointments.

But for that to happen, Nystad and his team needs to figure out the waxing situation quickly.