UPDATED: Krueger leads Norwegian sweep of Skiathlon
PYEONGCHANG - Norway won gold, silver and bronze in the men's skiathlon on Sunday 11 February at the Alpensia Cross-Country Centre. The podium sweep was led by Simen Hegstad Krueger who until today had only one World Cup win in his career from earlier this season. Despite leaving the stadium at the start of the competition in last place after a fall in the first 200 metres Krueger slowly worked his way back to the front of the competition and launched an attack with about 5 km to go that no one could match. With many of the pre race favourites still in contact with one lap remaining it appeared that they would pull Krueger back but as the lap progressed it was Martin Johnsrud Sundby (silver) and Hans Christer Holund (bronze) who eventually gave chase and broke the chasing group apart. Krueger who led by over 20 seconds at one point on the final lap cruised to the line clearly amazed by what he had just achieved.
Rather than chasing him to fight for the gold medal themselves, Martin Johnsrud SUNDBY (NOR) and Hans Christer HOLUND (NOR) let their teammate go - all according to plan - as they took silver and bronze respectively.
"We had really clear team tactics: if one of us gets seconds from the rest of the pack the others for sure cannot try to catch him, so me and Hans Christer (HOLUND) were waiting for Alex (HARVEY, CAN), Dario (COLOGNA, SUI), Maurice (MANIFICAT, FRA) and everybody else to try to catch Simen," SUNDBY said.
SUNDBY, second in 1:16:28.0, said he and HOLUND allowed KRUEGER the time difference he needed to secure the gold medal before shifting gear to claim their own spots on the podium.
"I think both of us were a bit surprised that no one seemed to try and at one point Simen had like 20 seconds and we felt like the gap was big enough for us to make a go for our own chances for the medals."
Denis Spitsov from the Olympic Athletes from Russia - who was also in the early crash with Krueger - took 4th just +2.8 seconds from the podium. Defending Olympic champion Dario Cologna of Switzerland spent much of the race towards the front struggled with the final pace and crossed the line in sixth +25 seconds back from Krueger. Current Overall World Cup leader Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo the winner of the only skiathlon on World Cup this season suffered late as well crossed in 10th place +43.4 seconds behind.
- Simen Hegstad KRUEGER (NOR) won gold, Martin Johnsrud SUNDBY (NOR) silver and Hans Christer HOLUND (NOR) bronze.
- It was Norway's 13th medal sweep at the Olympic Winter Games across all sports, the most by all NOCs. Netherlands follow on six.
- Of these 13 medal sweeps, five were in a cross-country skiing event. Only Netherlands has more medal sweeps in a specific sport at the Olympic Winter Games as all its medal sweeps were in speed skating.
- The last time Norway swept the podium at the Olympic Winter Games was in the ladies' 30km freestyle at Sochi 2014.
- Its previous medal sweep in a men's event in cross-country skiing was in the 30km classic at Albertville 1992, when Vegard ULVANG won ahead of Bjorn DAEHLIE and Terje LANGLI.
- This was Norway's 109th, 110th and 111th medal in cross-country skiing at the Olympic Winter Games. Only Austria (114) in alpine skiing has won more in a specific sport.
- For KRUEGER this was his second individual victory in a major competition (World Cup, world championships, Olympic Winter Games), following his victory in the 15km freestyle in a World Cup race in Toblach, Italy, on 16 December 2017.
1. SIMEN HEGSTAD KRUEGER (NOR) - gold
On winning gold:
"It is an indescribable feeling. It is an amazing day but it started in the worst way with the fall after the first 100 metres and a broken pole. I was completely last in the group so I had to start the race again and switch focus to catch up with the guys. When I did it I was (saying to myself), 'OK, take one lap, two laps, three laps and just get into it again, and try to do it on the final lap.'
"I knew that my chance was to go early, try to surprise the group. I saw it on the ladies' race yesterday that it was possible to go before the finish."
"When I got those metres I had to go for it. I did not believe it when I turned and there was no one there, (I thought), 'What is happening?', and 'Do not look back'. I just had to keep pushing forward until the final."
On falling early in the race:
"I was thinking that this is over. At least when they pushed hard in the start as well, I was hoping that there was no one who wanted to go in front in the wind. I had to keep pushing and hoping that it would calm down and suddenly we are even again."
2. MARTIN JOHNSRUD SUNDBY (NOR) - silver
On his second place:
"We (the team) have been working hard this season and have not had the greatest results during the pre-season, considering the Olympics was everything we had trained for and now crowning this today with a triple Norwegian.
"It is as almost I can not believe we pulled this off today. I am proud of my team and proud of myself, but today it was a team effort. We delivered our tactics 100% today."
On three Norwegians at the podium:
"It is fantastic with those guys. We live together in Oslo, we train together the whole summer. We have so many hours of training together this season. The three of us guys from Oslo, the biggest town in Norway, coming here and take a triple in the Olympics. That is amazing."
On what the people of Norway will make of the three medals:
"We (the athletes) are expecting gold medals in cross-country skiing and then when we are able to deliver, it is amazing. And also the Norwegian people expect us to do well."
3. HANS CHRISTER HOLUND (NOR) - bronze
On winning the bronze:
"It is just amazing. Usually I am not on the podium and I am a pretty slow skier at the last lap so I was a bit surprised that we were getting loose on the last lap."
On crossing the finish line:
"I did not believe it. It was 12 other guys out on the last lap and usually when there are so many people in the end I am usually not fast enough but obviously the other competitors were really tired. It means a lot. It is something I have worked hard for, for many, many years and now I am here with an Olympic medal.
1. KRUEGER Simen Hegstad 1993 NOR 1:16:20.0
2. SUNDBY Martin Johnsrud 1984 NOR +8.0
3. HOLUND Hans Christer 1989 NOR +9.9
4. SPITSOV Denis 1996 RUS +12.7
5. MANIFICAT Maurice 1986 FRA +14.2