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WATCH: Exhausted Russian ski star collapses on finish line after romping to victory in 17-year first

Russia romped to a stunning victory in the 4x5km women’s cross-country relay at the FIS World Cup stage in Norway as 20-year-old rising star Veronika Stepanova stormed home in a stirring final leg.

Stepanova had plenty to do approaching the finish line in Lillehammer but surged ahead of Swedish rival Moa Olsson and Helen Marie Fossesholm of Norway.

The Russian quartet of Yulia Stupak, Natalia Nepryaeva and Tatiana Sorina finished in a time of 54:40.06 – 1.1 seconds ahead of the Swedish team and with Norway in third.

It is the first victory for a Russian women’s team in a relay event at a World Cup stage since 2004.

🎞 Also the second Relay of the day was a close one 💥

How about that for a thrilling finish fight by the next generations great ones Veronika Stepanova 🇷🇺 Moa Olsson 🇸🇪 and Helene Marie Fossesholm 🇳🇴 !!#fiscrosscountry pic.twitter.com/mVavppzVau

— FIS Cross-Country (@FISCrossCountry) December 5, 2021

Наши тёлочки лучшие!!! Золото в женской эстафете на этапе Кубка мира в Норвегии в Лиллехамере. Победа в контактной борьбе, на финишной прямой, с прямыми конкурентками из Норвегии и Швеции! Вероника Степанова – золотце наше😍 pic.twitter.com/VZpisGyxp2

— Большой Змей (@ashaturnii) December 5, 2021

🇷🇺 back on the podium top in a Women’s Relay – it’s been a while🙌

Thank you for that thrilling Relay Day 👏#fiscrosscountry 📷 by NordicFocus pic.twitter.com/ZqEd9bhsdU

— FIS Cross-Country (@FISCrossCountry) December 5, 2021

Finishing the Russian surge was Stepanova, a former Nordic world junior champion who is now part of the senior set-up as the team prepare for the Beijing Olympics in February.

Stepanova is a colorful character on social media, not being shy to share her views on issues including the International Olympic Committee’s recent rulings on transgender participation in sport as well as rival teams such as Norway mixing politics and sport. 

READ MORE: Russian ski starlet poses transgender question

Russian skiing boss Elena Vyalbe said Stepanova could be a game-changer for her country if she continued her progress.

“Once again Veronika proved she’s a real relay-racer,” said Vyalbe.   

“Last season, we all admired her finish at the Russian Championships in the relay.

“We haven’t had such female relay stars for a long time.”

“She doesn’t feel so comfortable in the mountains, and the next two Olympics in the mountains,” Vyalbe added. 

“But we’ll work with her on this. We have two or three young promising girls in whom we see our future.”

Teammate Stepak described Stepnova as Russia’s “secret weapon.”

“We are so proud of what we’ve achieved today. We had our secret weapon Veronika as the last skier and we all did everything right. It’s so great to be a part of such a great team,” said the 26-year-old.

The Russian victory broke Norway’s stranglehold over the event as attention turns to the next stage of the World Cup, which takes place from December 11 to 12 in Davos, Switzerland.

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