In a turbulent men’s skiathlon with challenging conditions on the course, ROC’s cross-country skiers Alexander Bolshunov and Denis Spitsoz took the top two spots on 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 a minute behind him, his compatriot Spitsov crossed the finish line at 1:17:20.8 to win his third silver Olympic medal. Finland’s Iivo Niskanen claimed bronze.
Norway’s pre-race favorite Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo dropped off quickly and, surprisingly, finished the race in 40th. In an upset performance, no Norwegians made it onto the podium. They filled each step of the podium in PyeongChang.
Klaebo won three gold medals at the 2018 Winter Games at 21, but his effort was not enough to land him anywhere near the top. 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, Niskanen was chased down by Spitsov with zip in his step and stole second, but it was clear no one was going to catch Bolshunov.
American Scott Patterson stabilized his strides in the second half to keep pace with the pack. Patterson was the best U.S. finisher in the 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. ET.