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First Olympic gold for Russia’s Bolshunov while Norway miss out

World champion Alexander Bolshunov peaked when it mattered most to claim his first Olympic gold medal on Sunday in the cross country skiathlon where the Russian team celebrated a one-two finish and superpower Norway missed the podium.

Zhangjiakou, 6 February 2022 (dpa/MIA) – World champion Alexander Bolshunov peaked when it mattered most to claim his first Olympic gold medal on Sunday in the cross country skiathlon where the Russian team celebrated a one-two finish and superpower Norway missed the podium.

Bolshunov, who had won only one World Cup race all season, broke the field together with Iivo Niskanen in opening classic style portion despite falling early on, and left his Finnish rival behind at the start of the second half of the 30-kilometres contested in freestyle.

Bolshunov started celebrating with more than 2km left, saluted the crowd entering the stadium and coasted home in 1 hour 16 minutes 09.8 seconds.

Team-mate and training partner Denis Spitsov took silver a massive 1:11.0 back. Classic specialist Niskanen, the 2014 team sprint and 2018 50km gold medallist, held on for bronze, 2:00.2 minutes back.

The leading cross country nation Norway, which had swept the skiathlon podium in 2018, met disaster by their standard with Hans Christer Holand their best in fourth.

Star skier Johannes Hösflot Kläbo, a three-time Olympic and six-time world champion, was never in contention as he trailed by almost two minutes at the half-way mark. But he remains the top favourite for the sprint.

Their 2018 gold medallist Simen Hegstad Krüger was absent after contracting the coronavirus, and 2019 world champion Sjur Röthe quit the race at the end of the classic section.

Two-time reigning World Cup champion Bolshunov meanwhile ended his big event jinx for good with the Olympic gold, after three silvers and a bronze in 2018. His first world title came in last year’s skiathlon, to go with six silvers and a bronze.

His success is the first Beijing Games gold for the Russian team which owing to doping-related sanctions can not compete as a nation with its anthem and flag, and Bolshunov crossed the line with the Olympic flag in his hand.

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