Alexander Bolshunov won his third cross-country skiing gold medal of the Beijing Winter Olympics after having the strongest finish in the men's shortened 50km race.
The cold and windy conditions forced organizers to shorten the blue-riband event to less than 30km, a decision that on paper gave Bolshunov's rivals a better chance of keeping up with the Russian until the finish.
But Bolshunov still managed to dictate the race, upping the pace over the last 5km to pull the pack apart, with only four other skiers managing to keep up.
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It looked to be a three-way fight for gold, but Bolshunov had an extra gear to put in near the end as he pulled away from compatriot Ivan Yakimushkin and Norway's Simen Hegstad Kruger on the final uphill section.
With a comfortable gap, he was able to cruise to the finish line for his fifth medal overall of the Games. Incredibly, Bolshunov now has nine Olympic medals from nine races that he has started, having earned three silvers and a bronze at PyeongChang 2018.
Yakimushkin took silver 5.5 seconds back, with Krueger taking bronze 7.0s adrift.
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The decision to shorten the race was controversial, with the Olympic 50km traditionally viewed as the sport's most prestigious event.
British skier Andrew Musgrave, who finished 12th, took to Twitter before the race to express his anger at organizers.
"FIS have just shortened the Olympic 50km to a 28km because it's a bit cold and windy," Musgrave wrote. "I don't see that that will make it any warmer or less windy. What a f*****g joke!
For Krueger, a double gold medallist in 2018, it was an improbable medal after the Norwegian tested positive for Covid just a week before the Games started and had to spend 10 days in isolation before arriving in Beijing.
"It feels like a victory for me today," Krueger said.
Norwegian star Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo was also looking for his third gold of the Games but had to quit the race early on because of a stomach ailment.
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