In a turbulent men’s skiathlon with challenging conditions on the course, ROC’s cross-country skiers Alexander Bolshunov and Denis Spitsoz take the top two spots of the podium. After winning four medals at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, Bolshunov lived up to expectations and finally won his first gold Olympic medal with a time of 1:16:09.8. More than over a minute behind him, his teammate Spitsov crossed the finish line at 1:17:20.8 to win his third silver Olympic medal. Finland’s Iivo Niskanen takes bronze.
Individual pre-race favorites like Norway’s cross-country skiing icon Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo found himself completing the race in 40th place and dropped off the pack quickly. In an upset performance, no Norwegians made it onto the podium during this event when they had filled out each step in PyeongChang.
Klaebo had won three gold medals at the 2018 Winter Games at just 21 years old. Although becoming a more versatile athlete over the past four years and distinctly improving on his distance skiing, it was not enough to land him in the top ten. Bolshunov got the better of Klaebo in the past two World Championships in distance and proved that during his gold medal performance.
Despite a crash in the beginning of the race, Bolshunov started pushing the pace early and was followed close behind by Finland’s Niskanen. Niskanen made the first move of the race, but soon fell behind ROC’s Spitsov after the athletes changed to the freestyle technique. Seemingly overcome with lactic acid build up, Spitsov was able to chase down Niskanen with zip in his step and stole second. But, it was clear no one was going to catch up to Bolshunov.
American Scott Patterson stabilized his strides in the second half of the race to hold onto the pack. Patterson was the best U.S. skier in this event and placed 11th. Fellow American Gus Schumacher finished 39th.
The next cross-country skiing event is the men’s and women’s sprint free qualifiers, semifinals and finals on Feb. 8 at 3:00 a.m.
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