The Norwegians repeated as the Olympic gold medalists in the men's team pursuit speed skating event on Tuesday, while the United States captured the bronze medal.
Norway bested the ROC head-to-head in the final round by 2.38 seconds to become the first country to win multiple gold medals in the men's team pursuit, which made its Olympic debut in 2006.
The Norwegian team of Hallgeir Engebraaten, Sverre Lunde Pedersen and Peder Kongshaug were perfectly synchronized early in the final race. They jumped out to a two-second lead five laps in with three remaining and were never threatened.
"It means everything," Pederson told the media. "I had a hard summer with almost no training (after a bike crash). To be here with a gold medal, it's hard to describe. (ROC) beat us pretty well in the semifinal. Our plan was to go for it and it worked. We skated faster in the final."
Norway, the ROC and the U.S. utilized the strategy of keeping one skater in front for the whole race, as opposed to the more traditional action of alternating leaders.
All four Americans, including Ethan Cepuran who raced in the semifinals, obtained their first career Olympic medals. Mantia called it a weight off his shoulders, as he is competing in his third Winter Olympics at 36.
"I feel like now I can just breathe," Mantia said. "I can walk away and say, 'OK, we are Olympic medalists.' The Olympics is such an amplifier ... It creates this big gap between who’s on and who’s not."
The U.S. entered the Olympics having won two of three World Cup events, and it recorded the second-fastest time in the quarterfinals behind Norway to match up with the ROC.
The Russians skated out in front in the semifinal, but the group of Dawson, Lehman and Cepuran caught up in the middle of the race. The U.S. faded slightly, though, which opened the door for the ROC trio to retake the advantage in the latter third of the contest. The ROC set the Olympic record at 3:36.62, while the U.S. crossed the line 0.43 seconds later.
The Americans bested the previous Olympic record in the loss.
"We were disappointed but at the same time, we got off the ice, shifted focus, and were like, 'How are we going to win bronze?'" Cepuran said. "You’ve got to keep focus on what we can do next."
The ROC did not have the legs to keep up with Norway after the record-setting win over the U.S. and recorded a time nearly four seconds slower. The Americans recorded a better time in their final race than the Russians and were less than a second off of Norway's gold medal time.
Speed skating returns on Thursday with the women's 1000m individual race. Check out the full speed skating schedule here.