Norway’s Martin Johnsrud Sundby and Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo joined forces to power Norway to gold in the PyeongChang 2018 men’s team sprint free final at the Alpensia Cross-Country Skiing Centre on Wednesday 21 February. It was Norway’s second gold in the event, following their victory at Vancouver 2010.
Marcus Hellner and Calle Halfvarsson of Sweden set the early pace, with Norway, Italy and the Olympic Athlete from Russia (OAR) team (Denis Spitsov and Alexander Bolshunov) breaking clear with them on lap three. Klaebo then set Norway up for gold on his second loop, attacking at the top of a downhill section to break clear.
France’s Maurice Manificat and Richard Jouve moved into medal contention with two loops remaining, while Sundby maintained Norway’s 20-metre lead and handed over to Klaebo for the 21-year-old to apply the finishing touches to their comprehensive win. The Norwegians came home 1.71 seconds ahead of Team OAR, with France holding off the Swedes to take bronze.
Klaebo’s latest victory made him the first Norwegian man to win three gold medals at a single Olympic Winter Games since biathlete Ole Einar Bjoerndalen at Salt Lake City 2002.
His two other PyeongChang 2018 wins came in the 4x10km relay and the sprint classic and also made him only the fourth male athlete to win a third gold medal at the Olympic Winter Games before turning 22. Klaebo is also the second athlete to win the individual and team sprint events at a single Olympic Winter Games after Bjorn Lind of Sweden, who achieved the double at Turin 2006.
“It is an incredible feeling to finish first here. Both of us have been very nervous today and I did not sleep very well today either,” said Klaebo after completing his golden hat-trick. He then heaped praise on his team-mate Sundby: “He has been the best cross-country skier in the world in the last few seasons. It means a lot to be able to see how he does it and to see how he trains.”
“It means everything,” said Sundby, who also won gold in the 4x10km relay on 18 February. “The last couple of days have been nerve-wracking. We have talked about scenarios and we have talked about how to run this race in the best possible way. I think we actually did it in the best possible way in the final today. I think we both need a holiday soon, but we still have one race left.”