Vedenin taps into gold reserve
Vyacheslav Vedenin had made his Olympic debut four years earlier, winning a silver medal in the 50km.
He followed that up with two golds at the 1970 World Championship, confirming himself as one of the best long-distance cross country exponents on the international circuit, and he arrived in Sapporo as one of the favourites for both the 50km and 30km.
Vedenin was short and slight, but he had incredible reserves of strength and energy, qualities that would be tested to the max at these Games.
His first event was the 30km. No male Soviet skier had ever won an individual Olympic gold in the cross country.
It looked as if that fact might be weighing on him as he was only seventh quickest after 10km, but it was then that he drew on his incredible stamina. While other skiers began to tire, Vedenin sped up and by the 20km mark he was in the lead, some 11 seconds ahead of his rivals. From there on, his charge for the line was relentless and he finished a full 54 seconds ahead of the field to claim a superlative victory.
He followed that up with a bronze in the 50km, but it was in the relay that he achieved what was perhaps his most remarkable act of these Games. Skiing the anchor leg, he took over with the Soviet Union trailing Norway by more than a minute. Somehow, however, Vedenin managed to claw back the deficit, reducing it to 30 seconds after 5km, and eroding it further with every passing minute. With 100m left, he caught up with Norway's Johs Harviken and the two charged for the line. Harviken then lost his balance and fell, leaving Vedenin to seize an unlikely gold medal, in an enduring testament to his strength, endurance and determination.