Alexander Bolshunov was able to take advantage of the windy conditions by skis and using his hands.
On Saturday, the Russian won the 30-kilometer weather-shortened mass start cross-country ski race to earn his third gold medal at the Beijing Olympics.
Due to strong winds and frigid temperatures, the race was delayed for an hour. Temperature was around minus 18°C (0 degrees F).
Bolshunov stated that he can generally say that the weather is more difficult when conditions are less favorable. “It is because it is harder for me to do my job,” he said. The weather was more difficult in the morning. The wind was stronger, and the temperatures were colder. The weather improved a little bit after we started the race. I believe we could have skied 50 km today.
Bolshunov was part a five-man breakaway that won the final kilometer. Bolshunov pushed on to the stadium’s final climb and won in 1:11 minutes, 32.7 seconds
Russian teammate Ivan Yakimushkin was 5.5 seconds ahead for silver. Simen Hegstad Krueger, Norway, took bronze seven seconds behind.
Bolshunov is coached by Yuri Borodavko. He also won gold at the Beijing Games in the skiathlon relay. Bolshunov won silver in the classic 15-kilometer ski race, and bronze in team sprint.
Krueger competed in his first race at Beijing Games. He had tested positive for COVID-19 at January’s end. He arrived in China late.
Krueger stated, “It was a victory to be able to race today after being sick with COVID for 10 days.” “I was in isolation in my hotel room at the time of the first competitions, so I wasn’t sure I would be able race at all at this championship.
“Then, I had the opportunity to race in the last race. It’s an incredible feeling to be able go home with an Olympic gold medal.
Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo, World Cup leader, fell off the backside of the lead group around 33 minutes into race. With 7.9 km remaining, he took off his bib and walked off.
He claimed he had a stomach bug and couldn’t sleep well the night before.
“I decided this morning that I would skip the 50-kilometer. Then they determined that it should be 30 km instead. Klaebo stated, “Then I decided that I would at least give it a try and see.” It didn’t work out as I expected, but it was the end of my story.”
The harsh cold has taken its toll on the athletes. Many had frost clotted around their mouths and faces as protection against the wind.
As the racers skied past, it was almost as if lasers were firing in the snow. The friction created by cold snow causes the skis to slide and make a clicking sound.
The skiers were able to stay together for the entire first lap. This helped them avoid the wind. At the 28-minute mark, 16 skiers were ahead.
American skier Scott Patterson finished 11th in 50-kilometer race at 2018 Pyeongchang Games. He stayed with the leaders until the last push, and finished in eighth.
This was the most impressive Olympic cross-country ski result by an American man since Bill Koch’s silver medal at 1976 Innsbruck Games.
Patterson stated, “I tried to remain calm.” “I felt pretty strong, pretty relaxed. I’m happy. I wanted a top 10, and I got it today.”