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Olympian Iivo Niskanen wins 50km cross country gold

Niskanen skied to first place after going head to head with Russia's Aleksander Bolshunov in a final nail-biting spurt.

Iivo Niskanen.
Iivo Niskanen. Image: AOP

Finnish skier Iivo Niskanen took the Olympic gold medal in the men's 50km mass start cross country ski race in Pyeongchang on Saturday in what commentators are calling an untouchable performance.

Niskanen clocked in at 2 hours, 8 minutes and 22.1 seconds and brought Finland its first Olympic win after bursting ahead of Russia's Aleksander Bolshunov in the competition's final kilometres.

Bolshunov took the silver home 18.7 seconds behind Niskanen after finally lagging behind on the second-last uphill stretch. His countryman Andrei Larkov nabbed the bronze after a close race with Norway's Martin Johnsrud and Canada's Alex Harvey.

Niskanen launched into his first breakaway attempt after 20 km, and by the halfway mark had left everyone but Kazakhstan's Alexey Poltoranin 11 seconds behind. At the 30 km mark Bolshunov came hot on the Finn's heels, with the rest of the pack now more than a minute in the dust.

With just one kilometre to go and with Bolshunov taking the lead for several kilometres, Niskanen switched to fresh skis – and the rest is history.

The 26-year-old Niskanen is the first Finn to take the 50km gold medal since Kalevi Hämäläinen, who came first in the Squaw Valley race in 1960.

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