Jarl Magnus Riiber says he feels "like a complete idiot", after throwing away a 44-second head start to miss out on a medal in the men’s Nordic combined event after taking a wrong turn on the track during the 10km cross-country ski section of the event.
Norway’s Joergen Graabak soared through the field to take gold and become the first athlete to win the event twice, while his compatriot Jens Luras Oftebro claimed silver.
Akito Watabe of Japan came third for bronze.
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Riiber had been in a Covid isolation hotel since arriving in Beijing and missed the first Nordic combined event on the normal hill. But after being let out of quarantine on Monday, he put down the longest effort on the ski jumping hill in the morning to earn a massive lead ahead of Estonia’s Kristjan Ilves and Japan’s Yamamoto Ryota.
The points they earn in the ski jump converts into a time handicap for the cross-country race, meaning Riiber set off first in the staggered start. However, Riiber made a huge error at the end of the first lap, where he took a wrong turn and ended up skiing down what would be the eventual finishing straight.
"That mistake took 30 seconds. It destroyed a lot", he told Finnish broadcaster yle.
Riiber got himself back on track, but gave his rivals the chance to close the gap he had built up for himself in the ski jumping event.
Having been in Covid isolation, Riiber had no chance to train on the course, with his mistake costing him Olympic glory. His period recovering from the virus clearly impacted Riiber's performance, with the 24-year-old saying, "I was sore for two days. We do not know the long-term effects of the corona. I have to say, though, that I didn't feel healthy."
"I have to be realistic. There was a really small chance of a good result today. It is not ideal to be sore and isolated for two weeks", he said.
Akito Watabe of Japan sensed the opportunity to hunt Riiber down and overtook him to lead at the halfway stage.
A hunting pack including Germany’s Manuel Faisst and world champion Johannes Lamparter were in close pursuit of the leading pair as the field became tighter moving into the business end of the race.
Lamparter worked his way to the front, thinking yet more glory was to come his way, but Graabak had other ideas as he showed his experience to time his assault on the pack to perfection.

'He's missed!' - Shock as Riiber goes wrong way to throw away gold

The Norwegian started the race with a 2:07 deficit following the ski jumping, but he blasted past the leaders on the final approach to become Olympic champion.
It adds to Graabak’s silver medal from the individual normal hill event and, remarkably, in a discipline which rarely sees return champions, it’s a second Olympic gold in the large hill event for the 30-year-old, following his win in Sochi in 2014.
Graabak was described by the Eurosport commentary team as a "hunter-fisherman" because "that’s what he does, he hunts”, and that thought has been validated by the way he reeled his opponents in before pouncing to take the title in Beijing.
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