Arguably the greatest classic skier of the modern era, Iivo Niskanen of Finland completed two laps of the 4.5-mile course in lightning time to win gold. Raising his fist in the air as he collapsed to the ground after crossing the finish line, Niskanen knew he had just won Olympic gold in the men’s 15km classic. At 30 years old, the win secured his third career Olympic gold medal. He won his first Olympic gold medal in the team sprint classic at the 2014 Games in Sochi and his second in 2018 in the men's 50km mass start classic
Niskanen raced against the clock and registered a solid early split to push the pace of the competitors. He crossed the finish line with a time of 37:54.8 and maintained his strides without exerting too much energy early on. Niskanen was able to dial up his speed in the second half of the race while still conserving enough energy to execute a surge toward the finish. Through inclines and straights, Niskanen stayed in the tracks and double-poled his way up.
He submitted 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 the discipline and added his 15km gold medal to the bronze he won in the men’s skiathlon.
As Niskanen came into the home stretch around the last bend of the course, he established a little more glide with each stride. Niskanen was right in his element and stayed confident with his own pacing. Outside of the information he received from his coaches on the course, he wasn't 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 didn't 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 Norway's 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. He is 25 years old.
U.S. skiers in the discipline weren't 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 the event.