PYEONGCHANG - Iivo NISKANEN (FIN) won Finland's first gold at the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games in any sport, when he won the men's 50km classic on Saturday 24 February at the Alpensia Cross-Country Skiing Centre. Niskanen the current World Champion in the 15 km classic extended his classic technique championship dominance to the 50 km.
Niskanen set an early pace that stretched out the leading group of around 20 and broke it into several smaller groups. Only Kazakhstan's Alexey Poltoranin was able to match the break but that effort cost him late in the race as he fell back to 15th over 5 minutes off the winning time of Niskanen. Olympic Athlete from Russia Alexander Bolshunov took up the chase and left all the major contenders behind as he bridged up to Niskanen and in the end took the silver medal. His 4th medal of these games. Bolshunov's teammate Andrey Larkov made his move for bronze in the final kilometers to get himself clear for the medal by 6 seconds ahead of Canada's Alex Harvey (4th) and Norway's Martin Johnsrud Sundby (5th).
- Finland became the 22nd NOC with a gold medal at the PyeongChang Games (including OAR), equalling the record set in Sochi four years ago.
- NISKANEN also won gold in the men's team sprint in Sochi four years ago and became the fourth Finnish cross-country skier to win multiple gold medals in the sport, after Veikko HAKULINEN (three), Eero MANTYRANTA (three) and Marja-Liisa KIRVESNIEMI (FIN).
- It was Finland's 79th medal in cross-country skiing, which equalled Sweden's total for second-most behind Norway (120).
- Silver medallist Alexander BOLSHUNOV (OAR) won his fourth medal at the PyeongChang Games and equalled cross-country skiers Marit BJOERGEN (NOR) and Charlotte KALLA (FIN) for most medals won in any sport at these Winter Games.
- This also equalled the record for most medals won in cross-country skiing in men's events at any Olympic Winter Games.
- BOLSHUNOV became the second athlete in any sport to win at least four medals at a single Winter Games without winning gold, after Roald LARSEN (NOR) took five medals (two silver and three bronze) in speed skating in 1924.
- With Andrey LARKOV (OAR) taking bronze, Olympic Athletes from Russia has two spots on the podium for the second time, after the ladies' figure skating gold and silver on Friday 23 February.
- This was the first cross-country event these Winter Games in which Norway failed to win a medal.
1. Iivo NISKANEN (FIN) - gold
On winning gold :
"It was a big dream. Of course I won team sprint with Sami (JAUHOJARVI, at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games)."
On changing his skis at 40km:
"I did not know how the skis were working and I did not know how (for) many kilometres (Alexander) BOLSHUNOV (OAR) had used his pair. Then I tried to catch him as soon as possible, and in the long downhill the fresh skis were much faster. Then I only needed to save energy at the end."
2. Alexander BOLSHUNOV (OAR)
On taking silver:
"I am disappointed because today I could win gold medal. It was a little tactic fault from me, maybe I should have changed my skis. With those skis I could not fight for the gold medal at the finish line with (Iivo) NISKANEN (FIN). It is just my fault."
On his overall Games performance (three silvers, one bronze):
"I am happy with my results here but in today's race it must be my race and of course I am disappointed with this result."
3. Andrey LARKOV (OAR) - bronze
On winning the bronze medal:
"The first three laps were very good for me but then the weather changed and it became very cold. I changed my skies and that was very good. My work was just to go fight for medals."
OFFICIAL RESULTS - MEN 50 km C
1. NISKANEN Iivo 1992 FIN 2:08:22.1
2. BOLSHUNOV Alexander 1996 RUS +18.7 3.40
3. LARKOV Andrey 1989 RUS +2:37.5
4. HARVEY Alex 1988 CAN +2:43.6
5. SUNDBY Martin Johnsrud 1984 NOR +2:43.7