Exhausted and gasping for breath, cross-country skier Maerta Rosenberg (SWE) stared at the small computer screen positioned after the finish line of the women’s 5km classic and refused to believe what she was seeing.
“I was first. I was so tired at the end of the race I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “Then all my coaches ran over and were screaming at me that I had won.”
The 79 athletes in the women’s race at the Vallee de Joux started at 30-second intervals, meaning recorded times rather than first past the post determined the winner.
After completing the testing course in 14 minutes, 15.7 seconds, Rosenberg could only watch on screen as the official times for the final handful of favourites were confirmed. Her time held, making the 17-year-old a Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games champion.
Switzerland’s Siri Wigger, winner of the two previous women’s cross-country events at Lausanne 2020, claimed silver ahead of Kendall Kramer (USA) in third.
Rosenberg had won bronze and silver behind Wigger on the two previous days of competition. Today, despite a fall on the final downhill on her second lap of the 2.5km course, she turned the tables.
“Now I have three colours of medal – gold, silver and bronze. That’s a super-good combo,” she said.
Wigger, a favourite with the noisy crowd, was happy to have earned another medal for Switzerland. “It was my race to win, but second is OK,” she said. “It’s been an amazing week.”
In the men’s 10km classic, Russia’s Iliya Tregubov raced to gold, an impressive 45 seconds ahead of the rest of the 82-strong field. Germany’s Elias Keck claimed silver, with Will Koch (USA) taking bronze.
Tregubov, 17, who missed the early part of the season with a back injury, said his years of training had paid off.
“A lot of work. I train for six years, [ski] 7,000 kilometres a year,” he said.
Bronze medallist Koch said his father, Bill Koch, a four-time Winter Olympian and Innsbruck 1976 cross-country skiing silver medallist, was on the course and kept him informed of split times each lap.
“Dad would be saying things like: ‘OK, you’re in second place, you’re this far out.’ But for the last few minutes I had no idea. I just had to go flat out,” said Koch.
The 2.5km circuit, which the women covered twice and the men four times, featured steep ascents and slippery descents, testing the endurance of all athletes.
“The hill up there was a killer: your legs turn to jelly and then you had to stay on your feet for the downhills and the icy corners. None of it was easy but I’m stoked,” said Australia’s Zana Evans, who finished 37th.
With blue skies, fierce racing and enthusiastic supporters lining the course, including a grandstand packed with schoolchildren, Tuesday was a fitting finale for cross-country skiing at the Games.
Switzerland, Sweden and Norway have dominated the medals in the cross-country events at Lausanne 2020.