Thanks to their final tactical sprint plan, the Norwegian’s rose to the occasion and delivered a gold medal performance down to the finish line. The Norwegian team of Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo and Erik Valnes solidified their Olympic gold at 19:22.99 to beat out competitors like Finland’s Iivo Niskanen and ROC’s Alexander Bolshunov.
Finland’s Joni Maki upset ROC’s Alexander Terentev in the final sprint and crossed the line at 19:25.45. Terentev followed close behind at 19:27.28.
Klaebo remained patient and poised through his final anchoring lap of the relay. After Valnes entered the fifth exchange to Klaebo, Klaebo fell into third in the beginning of his lap. He knew he could conserve energy to make up that time whenever he wanted and remained unbothered by his deescalating ranks.
In a drag race up the final climb of the course, Klaebo hit the accelerator and went into full throttle with an aggressive kick. He pulled away from Maki and Terentev over the crest and pushed the pace leading up to the straight away of the final curve. No one could catch him. He is ranked as the number one sprinter in World Cup rankings for the 2021-2022 season and defended his team sprint title from 2018 by 2.46 seconds over ROC.
For the Norwegians, this was Valnes’ first Olympic medal and Klaebo’s seventh. Winning the team sprint marked Klaebo’s second Olympic gold medal at the 2022 Winter Olympics and his fourth overall. He said he had been training with Valnes for a couple years in preparation for the Games and being able to win back-to-back gold in the event with him “felt amazing.”
“I’m really proud, it’s special to do this together as a team. We won the team sprint in 2018, and doing it in a different way now, different style, with a different person, it’s special.”
The Norwegians tag teamed to shut out Bolshunov of ROC. Bolshunov is ranked as the best distance skier of the 2021-2022 season according to World Cup rankings. However, he proved he was not fast enough in this relay to gain extra length on the field after his efforts ended his final lap in third.
Klaebo will have a final chance to match his three gold medals from PyeongChang at the 2022 Winter Olympics in the last men’s cross-country skiing event of the program. The 50km mass start free gets underway on Feb. 19 at 1:00 a.m. ET.
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