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Wiklund leads Swedish clean sweep in the 50 km

Elis Wiklund IOC / RÜBELT, Lothar
10 Feb 1936
Garmisch-Partenkirchen 1936, Skiing, Sweden

The 50km cross-country race, the most important of them all, was held on 15 February on a course that began in Kochelberg and ended in the Olympic Stadium. Rising to 1,115 metres above sea level at its highest point, it comprised a vertical drop of 380 metres.

In all, 36 skiers from 11 countries lined up for the event, setting off at one-minute intervals. Combined with the presence of icy patches on some parts of the course, the relatively mild temperatures of 2 to 3ºC gave the competitors much to ponder when it came to waxing their skis, an area in which the Swedes were renowned specialists.

As well as their waxing expertise, the Swedes were also able to call on some exceptionally gifted skiers for the event, with Elis Wiklund and Nils Englund, the last two world champions at the distance, being joined by Hjalmar Bergström and Axel Wikström, a silver medallist in the 18km at Lake Placid 1932.

The Swedes quickly took control, posting the fastest times at every split. The last of them to set off, in 37th place, was Wiklund, who was in a position to control events and moved into the lead after 13 kilometres. Hailing from Ullånger on the shores of the Gulf of Bothnia, the Swedish skier maintained a fierce pace and stretched his lead over the rest of the field, his compatriots included.

Wikström was the first of the Swedes home, moving into the lead with a time of 3:33.20. Englund then followed him in to take second less than a minute behind, with Bergström coming in third, over a minute and a half in arrears.

Wiklund was in a league of his own, however, trimming three minutes and nine seconds off Wikström’s time to complete an unprecedented Swedish one-two-three-four and become his country’s second gold medallist in the event after Per-Erik Hedlund at St Moritz in 1928. The closest anyone got to the leading quartet was Finland’s Klaes Karppinen in a time of 3:39.33.

In later years, Sweden tightened their grip on the event, with Nils Karlsson winning 50km gold at St Moritz 1948, Sixten Jernberg doing likewise at Cortina d’Ampezzo 1956 and Innsbruck 1964, and Thomas Wassberg and Gunde Svan following suit at Sarajevo 1984 and Calgary 1988 respectively.

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