Olympics-Cross-country skiing-Tough skiathlon course takes toll on Klaebo – Metro US

Olympics-Cross-country skiing-Tough skiathlon course takes toll on Klaebo

Cross-Country Skiing – Men’s 15km + 15km Skiathlon
Cross-Country Skiing – Men’s 15km + 15km Skiathlon

ZHANGJIAKOU, China (Reuters) – After winning gold in cross-country skiing and biathlon on Saturday, Norway had pinned its Sunday title hopes on Johannes Klaebo but the three-times Olympic champion was a shadow of his usual self on a tough course at the Beijing Games.

Klaebo, 25, was one of the highlights of the Pyeongchang Olympics for the skiing-mad Norwegians, winning the individual sprint and being a key part of the team sprint and relay wins, but on Sunday he struggled to get to grips with the conditions.

His only comment to waiting journalists after his 40th place in the 30km skiathlon was almost untranslatable from Norwegian, but it amounted to “I’m just an ass”.

He was not the only one who found conditions tough. Racers throughout the field spoke of a challenging course with regular punishing uphill sections and snow that was not suited to chasing down the leaders.

“Dry snow and heavy going on the course, it was something else. I have never experienced a tougher race than today,” Norwegian-born Irish skier Thomas Maloney Westgard told Reuters after a gruelling race.

“Considering that it was 30 km — when you look at that gap, I mean, I’m 10 minutes behind. Normally that will be the 70th place, but today I was 42nd,” Westgard said, shaking his head.

Klaebo did well to keep among the front group, with eventual winner Alexander Bolshunov, silver medallist Denis Spitsov and bronze-winner Iivo Niskanen in sight, but after the change to freestyle skiing he fell away and took his foot off the gas, seemingly content to finish down the field.

“I think he (Klaebo) felt that it wasn’t his day today. He chose to finish the race but he has probably decided that the sprint is more important to him,” Bolshunov told a media conference.

That sprint race takes place on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Philip O’Connor; editing by Clare Fallon)

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