Olympics-Cross-country skiing-Finn Niskanen flying high with new classic gold – Metro US

Olympics-Cross-country skiing-Finn Niskanen flying high with new classic gold

Cross-Country Skiing – Men’s 15km Classic
Cross-Country Skiing – Men’s 15km Classic

ZHANGJIAKOU, China (Reuters) -Iivo Niskanen may not be a fan of the altitude at China’s National Cross Country Centre but he is still flying high in classic cross-country skiing, adding another gold to his 50km title from Pyeongchang in 2018.

The Finn’s consistency laid the foundations for a convincing victory over Alexander Bolshunov, representing the Russian Olympic Committee, and Norway’s Johannes Klaebo, and he adds it to a pile of wins this season.

“I made it my own race today and if you look at the last maybe 16 to 17 15km classic intervals, I have been on the podium around 14 times. I felt pressure today to take this gold medal,” he told reporters.

“I’m really proud that I managed to win (for the) third time in a row at this distance this season. It’s never easy to go to the start position as a favourite.”

Niskanen’s triumph is the latest in Finland’s proud tradition of classic cross-country wins, adding to the silver and bronze medals won 24 hours before by his sister Kerttu and Krista Parmakoski respectively.

“Maybe we’re not the fastest skiers in the world, but I think we have a good engine … Maybe that’s the biggest reason we get good results on these kinds of tracks,” Niskanen said of the burgeoning family dynasty.

The 30-year-old revealed that he had struggled somewhat with the conditions in China but was finding his feet after dropping out of the lead in last Sunday’s skiathlon, ending up with a bronze medal.

“You never feel flying in the high altitude. I was more worried after the skiathlon about the shape of Bolshunov,” he explained.

“Sometimes on smaller hills you are not able to do good results, but it seems these tracks are really good for us (Finns), and also high altitude.”

With his second individual gold medal secured, Niskanen found the time for a sporting gesture, waiting at the finish line and embracing Columbia’s Carlos Andres Quintana as the last athlete to finish the race in 95th place, more than 17 minutes after the Niskanen himself.

“I said, ‘Well done’. You need to respect each other as an athlete. Everyone has done lots of work to be here and it means a lot to take him across the finish line,” the Finn told reporters.

“You need that kind of respect in these Olympic Games. Smaller countries don’t have as much budget as the best nations. Everyone needs to be proud of themselves to take part (in) the Olympic Games as a skier.”

(Reporting by Philip O’Connor; Editing by Ken Ferris and Hugh Lawson)

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