Alexander Bolshunov Wins Gold Medal for Cross-Country Olympics 2022 30KM Skiathlon

Rob Goldberg@@TheRobGoldbergFeatured Columnist IVFebruary 6, 2022

Russian athlete Alexander Bolshunov celebrates winning the gold medal during the men's 15km + 15km skiathlon cross-country skiing competition at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Sunday, Feb. 6, 2022, in Zhangjiakou, China. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino

Alexander Bolshunov earned the first gold medal for the Russian Olympic Committee at the 2022 Winter Olympics with his win in the men's 30-kilometer skiathlon on Sunday.

Bolshunov finished the cross-country event in one hour, 16 minutes and 9.8 seconds, more than one minute ahead of silver medalist Denis Spitsov, also representing the ROC. Finland's Iivo Niskanen earned the bronze medal.

Scott Patterson was the top American finisher in 11th place. 

The skiathlon is a two-part event that features classical and freestyle skiing with a pit stop in the middle to change skis. Bolshunov was the fastest in both styles in Beijing, helping him cruise to an easy win on the biggest stage.

"My emotions cannot be expressed," he said after the race. "I still have not realized that I am truly an Olympic champion."

Bolshunov, the top-ranked distance competitor in the World Cup, was a favorite entering the event. He won the 2021 World Championships in this event, also earning a silver in the 50-kilometer race.

There was still a challenge early from Niskanen, who was less than a second off the lead after the first half of the race. It took the freestyle portion for the Russian to separate himself from the rest of the field.

After winning three silvers and a bronze in the 2018 Games, Bolshunov now has his first Olympic gold.

Simen Hegstad Kruger was the defending champion of the 30-kilometer skiathlon, but he did not compete Sunday after testing positive for COVID-19. Four years after Norway swept the medals at this event, no one from the country finished better than fourth this time around.