Thats a good question. All I have heard is speculation. The bear being able to drop Golberg is just weird, "not normal". Though in this case I think the reason Golberg was dropped was with Golberg and not with his competitors. Normally I would have expected him to follow without any problems. Perhaps struggling a bit to follow Hellner in the last leg of the final,python said:so what exactly happened to paal golberg ?
i did not see the semifinals but i read what i could and still don't understand...did he fall, have a mental breakdown, a physical trauma (muscle, knee?), health issues (cold?).
the reason i am particularly interested is that i found some post race comments by the winners curious.
kriukov said that when he saw golberg in action in one of the legs, he realized that paal was going at his limit when the pace was less than red hot. he than communicated to the 'bear' to raise the pace at some point which the bear did dropping paal ? i simply find that for an athlete of paals talent, to give northug a 20 second deficit has to have some better explanation ?
What I saw happen was everything looking as expected until the last leg. On first hill from the exchange when the tempo was increased, as expected, Golberg began to fall behind. It looked like suddenly his legs were filled with lactate. Then he kept pushing and it probably got worse. Add panic to that and we have a blackout. He appeared to have totally lost it on the last hill. Being passed by Japan.
I'm a bit skeptical of taking post race interviews at face value. It could be Kiriukov saw it like you described. It could also be the interviewer asking questions in a way that he got the answer he wanted. It could be mind games(Kiriukov is a smart guy). Or it could be language issues. Kiriukovs English is not that good.
But, for Golberg to break like that it would be sensible for some weakness to show up earlier. But I expect the coaches who know Golberg well to see that as well as Kiriukov. So maybe there was something to spot earlier? I don't know.
As for the reasons. I'm not sure there is just one factor. I'm thinking it could be a combination. So variables that could have influence:
- Mental pressure, knowing you are the weakest part of the team.
- Sickness in it's early stages
- Not adapting well to the snow conditions
- Something with the altitude(IIRC it's 900m)
I don't think the sprinters went through an altitude camp, though I could be mistaken. There could also be some unknown factor relating to anaerobic performance at altitude. Sprint relay is very new, and the difficulty of the courses has increased these last few years.
So thats my brain storming of possible reasons. Your rampant speculation is as good as mine, probably better. Any ideas?