Sunday, May 29

Klæbo has no chance in the first Olympic race: Gold for Bolshunov

ZHANGJIAKOU / OSLO (VG) Johannes Høsflot Klæbo (25) was nowhere near hanging with arch-rival Aleksandr Bolshunov (25) during Sunday’s 30 kilometers.

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Klæbo walked right past the writing press after the race, before he turned briefly and said:

– Æ e berre ræva.

After about five kilometers, the hard drive started on the men’s 30 kilometer joint start with ski change. Iivo Niskanen was given a chance to change things around. Alexander Bolshunov woke up.

The Russian went up to Niskanen, while the Norwegian athletes could not keep up. Johannes Høsflot Klæbo had no chance to follow Bolshunov, and when the ski change after 15 kilometers he was over a minute and a half behind the arch-rival.

Towards the end, Klæbo took it easy and finished in 40th place, over nine minutes behind Bolshunov.

Klæbo was also aware that it was «the ass» when he passed VGTV’s camera:

Hans Christer Holund was the best of the Norwegians in fourth place, two and a half minutes behind Bolshunov. Pål Golberg asked for a fifth place just behind.

– It was a very tough race. It’s tough to see that someone is so much better. It’s just to take off the hat for those on the podium and then we can hope that we can rise, Golberg says to VG.

– It was too tough on the classic. I was stiff and had nothing to go on the skating, Holund says to VG.

BEST OF THE NORWEGIANS: Hans Christer Holund came fourth.

Bolshunov was completely superior in the last half of the race, and after three silver and one bronze medal in 2018, he went in for his first Olympic gold in superb style, 1.11 ahead of compatriot Denis Spitsov and 2 minutes ahead of Niskanen.

– Look at Bolshunov, then. He is in a completely separate universe today, said VGTV’s expert Sondre Sundby during the race.

– What Bolshunov is doing here is completely insane, he continued.

The Russian fell after about three kilometers, but recovered quickly.

– Everything was ideal today. The fall may have been necessary for that to happen. After the fall I calmed down and went my own race. I’m glad everything went in the box at the right moment, says Bolshunov to Pjervyj Kanal.

– I’m a bit beaten to the ground by the result. It was a scenario I had not imagined, that there would be so much water between the boats, says Martin Johnsrud Sundby in the Discovery studio after the finish.

– He is just a machine, says the British runner Andrew Musgrave to VG.

– It is one of the sickest races I have walked. It went so fast on the classic, says Musgrave, and adds that he actually felt pretty good.

Musgrave eventually became number 17.

It is the first time someone has won a 30 kilometer joint start with a ski change in the WC or Olympics – arranged for the first time in the WC in 2003 (then 20 kilometers) – by more than ten seconds.

The margin of victory is the largest in an individual race on the men’s side in the WC and Olympics since Johann Mühlegg won the 50-kilometer race in Lahti at the WC in 2001 with just under two minutes.

– Game over, this is a failure, stated Discovery Sweden’s expert, Peter Larsson, during the race, according to Expressen about the Norwegian achievements.

– It is strange, the Norwegian team is shaken, said the channel’s commentator, Petter Barrling.

Hans Christer Holund was the one who was closest to following Niskanen when the pace increased after five kilometers. When it was about to become a hatch, Holund chose to have a drink on top of a hill and completely lost contact with Niskanen.

He also failed to follow when Bolshunov came by in search of Niskanen.

When changing skis, Holund and Pål Golberg were barely 40 seconds behind the close duo, and thus less than ten seconds behind Russian Denis Spitsov in third place.

– We have not seen such distances before in a 30 kilometers before. In a joint start in the men’s field where it is so even … I do not think it would have looked like this if this had happened in the lowlands. The height has a lot to say here, said Sondre Sundby.

Bolshunov moved out of the skating section early from Niskanen, and Niskanen was eventually also passed by Denis Spitsov.

The fourth Norwegian gentleman in the race, Sjur Røthe, broke the race early.

Already as a 21-year-old, Johannes Høsflot Klæbo took his first World Cup medal when he took bronze in the sprint in Lahti in 2017. In the Olympics in 2018 and the World Cup in 2019 and 2021, there were three golds in each of the championships, and on all three occasions gold in sprint, team sprint and relay.

At a distance, things have not gone as well for Klæbo in the championship. Admittedly, he was very close on several occasions in Oberstdorf last year, but then it was fourth place in the 30-kilometer joint start with ski change and he was discarded from the gold on the five-mile after a collision with Aleksandr Bolshunov in the race.

In the first attempt in this year’s Olympics, Klæbo again fell short in the battle for a medal in a distance race.

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