Arguably the greatest classic skier of this modern era, Iivo Niskanen of Finland completed the two laps of the 4.5 miles course in lightning time and took gold. Bumping his fist in the air as he crashed to the ground after crossing the finish line, Niskanen knew he had just won Olympic gold in the men’s 15km classic. His win solidified his third Olympic gold medal in his career.
Niskanen raced against the clock and put up a solid early split to push the pace of competitors. He crossed the finish line at 37:54.8 and kept up maintainable strides without exerting himself too early on. Niskanen was able to dial up his speed in the second half of the race while still conserving enough energy to perform a huge surge at the finish. Through inclines and straights, Niskanen stayed in the tracks and doubled-poled his way up.
He put down a convincing performance in the men’s 15km classic and proved he was still the master at his discipline. His dreams of competing in his best event were finally met after waiting eight years for the 15km race to be contested in the classic. The Finnish skier has won seven World Cups in this discipline and added his 15km gold medal to the bronze he won in the men’s skiathlon.
As Niskanen came around the last bend of the course into the home stretch, he established a little more glide with each stride. Niskanen was right in his element and stayed confident in his own pacing. Outside of the information he got from his coaches on the course, he was not able to gauge the pace his competitors were racing at due to the interval start nature of this race. The absence of other athletes on the course did not phase him as he displayed efficiency with every stride to shut out two of the biggest names in cross-country skiing, ROC’S Alexander Bolshunov and Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo.
Despite slipping twice on the course, Bolshunov took silver at 38:18.0 and Klaebo finished behind him earning bronze with a time of 38:32.3. Both men now have three medals from the 2022 Winter Games, with one of them being gold. Although Bolshunov did not win gold, he made history with his silver medal as the youngest male athlete in any sport in the history of the Winter Olympics to win six career Olympic medals.
U.S. skiers in this discipline were not able to make up time on the comfortable margin Niskanen set. Scott Peterson, Ben Ogden, Gus Schumacher and James Clinton “JC” Schoonmaker took 38th, 42nd, 48th and 66th out of the 99 athletes competing in this event.