Alexander Bolshunov may not be a house-hold name in America, but that doesn’t mean he’s not one of the most decorated Olympians at the 2022 Winter Games.
The 25-year-old will try to lead Team ROC to victory in the men’s team sprint, if so, it’ll be his fourth medal of these Games. He will have to beat rival Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo and Team Norway. Bolshunov has won a medal in every event he’s participated in at the Olympics, both in Beijing and at the 2018 PyeongChang Games. He is the youngest athlete – man or woman – in any sport to win at least seven medals at the Olympic Winter Games.
Traditionally, Bolshunov competes in six cross-country events. Four of these events are individual: 15km individual, 30km skiathlon, 50km mass start, and sprint. The final two are team events: 4x10km relay and team sprint.
At these Games, Bolshunov won the men’s skiathlon, finished second in the men’s 15km classical race and won his second gold medal as part of the men’s 4x10km relay. Bolshunov can equal the record of five Olympic medals won at a single Games by finishing on the podium in the relay.
Bolshunov’s historic performance at the 2022 Winter Games almost got off on the wrong foot. He overcame an early-race fall to win his first Olympic gold medal in his first event of these Games, the skiathlon. Ahead of the Olympics, Bolshunov won the event at 2021 Worlds, his first world title.
The 25-year-old couldn’t believe he finally captured his elusive gold medal. "My emotions cannot be expressed. I still have not realized that I am truly an Olympic champion. This last month, I believed in myself a lot and understood that I had to become an Olympic champion and I'm especially happy that I was able to do it here in the first race."
Bolshunov’s medal ceremony was memorable, as the skier jumped in excitement knocking down the Olympic ring sign on the platform. The gaffe made him a TikTok sensation overnight. No one can blame the 25-year-old for celebrating his first gold medal.
The men’s 15km race isn’t his strongest of the disciplines he participates in. Bolshunov is known more of a distance specialist, while his rival Hoesflot Klaebo is the sprint king. The 15km is an equalizer in terms of races they compete in, where either one could be a contender. Heading into Beijing, Bolshunov did finish second in a pair of classical events.
His success isn’t limited to the Olympics. Heading into the 2022 Winter Games, the Russian skier was having his best season yet. He won four medals at the World Championships and won the 2021 overall and distance World Cup titles. He also entered ranked second overall, first in distance and 12th in sprint in season standings, all at the age of 25.
One thing’s for sure: The 25-year-old and his rival, Hoesflot Klaebo, have made cross-country a must watch at the 2022 Winter Games. Bolshunov and Team ROC will next race Wednesday at 4:15 a.m. ET in the men’s team sprint.