Norway’s Simen Hegstad Krueger won the men’s 30km skiathlon at the Planica 2023 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships on Friday, taking revenge for his silver medal in the event two years ago.
The 29-year-old claimed his first world championships title 12.2 seconds before runner-up Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo as their teammate Sjur Roethe in third place completed the Norwegian clean sweep.
”It’s unbelievable to be a world champion. That’s a dream come true,” Krueger said.
He had won the skiathlon gold medal at the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Games but been 1.1 second from the victory at the world championships in Oberstdorf, Germany, in 2021 when Russia’s Alexander Bolshunov won.
Krueger joins Bolshunov and Switzerland’s Dario Cologna in an exclusive group of three male skiers who have won the skiathlon at the world championships and the Olympic Games.
”I missed this gold medal so I had dreams to make it here in this championships. For that to come true, that’s unbelievable,” Krueger said.
It was just to go for it and not look back
Simen Hegstad Krueger
A front group of 13 skiers stayed together for the first half of the race that consists of classic skiing, where Finnish Beijing 2022 bronze medallist Iivo Niskanen, Norway’s Paal Golberg as well as Swedish William Poromaa and Calle Halfvarsson took turns to pull the race in the front.
Then Krueger and Roethe, who have spent time training their ski exchange to perfection, stormed out of the transition zone before anyone else and gained a crucial advantage to the rest of the field for the remaining four freestyle laps.
”It’s such a tough race and when we attacked there, together with Sjur, at the change, it was just to go for it and not look back,” Krueger said.
He and Roethe, a world championships skiathlon gold medallist at Seefeld, Austria, in 2019, were set to battle it out for the gold medal, but in the last two laps Krueger broke away and could cruise to victory by himself.
”I started to get cramps there on the last lap so I wasn’t sure I was going to make it, it’s an amazing feeling,” he said.
In the last lap, Klaebo caught up with Roethe and had power left to show why he is the best sprinter in the world, claiming his first skiathlon medal in a major event just under two seconds before his teammate.
Norway’s Paal Golberg, who had won silver behind Klaebo in Thursday’s sprint, fell behind in the exchange and had to fight for the fourth place with Poromaa, making sure the four top spots were Norwegian.
"The fight for fourth place was probably what none of us wanted today but three guys were stronger and luckily I managed to be the fourth,” Golberg said
”The trouble was in the transition for me, I think I used too much time. The distance between me and them (Krueger and Roethe) was the same out of the transition as it was one lap later, and then I’d used too much power, unfortunately, and wasn’t able to catch them.”
Halfvarsson finished sixth, 0.7 second before Germany’s Friedrich Moch in seventh place.
The world championship action in Planica continues on Saturday with the women’s 15km skiathlon classic/free.
Click here for full results from the men’s 30km skiathlon race.