Norway’s Petter Northug won the race in impressive form claiming his maiden Olympic individual title and his second gold of the Games in the endurance event on Sunday.
Northug, the reigning world champion at the distance, beat Germany’s Axel
Teichmann in a two-up sprint to the line. Johan Olsson took advantage of a slip by Swiss skier Dario Cologna to claim his second bronze of the games.
Northug’s second gold of the Games, after his victory in the team sprint event, came after a thrilling end to the two-hour nordic epic.
After most of the field had been left trailing by a lead group of 20 skiers Teichmann upped the pace in the final kilometre.
That stretched the chasing bunch further but on the final descent towards the finish line the German was soon in everyone’s sights.
Northug, the overall World Cup leader, pushed hard on his poles to pull level with Teichmann as they raced around the final bend.
And the Norwegian carried that momentum over the next 100 metres to the finish line where he beat Teichmann by just 0.3sec. Olsson was third at 1.0sec.
“I had to stick to my plan, to stay in the (leading) group. When Teichmann attacked over the hill I knew I had to stay with him,” said Northug.
“I always said he (Teichmann) is maybe the best sprinter with me but I know that if I stayed with him I can beat him in the stadium.”
Northug finished with four medals from the Vancouver Games, with a bronze from the individual sprint and silver in the 4x10km relay adding to his golds.
At only 24 years old, he is also just the third nordic skier ever to have won world and Olympic gold at the distance.
Teichmann was boosted by a ski change, as racers are allowed to do at interval points throughout the race, at the 40km mark.
But he did not expect to be on the podium.
“I had bad skis between 30 and 40 km but when I changed after that it was better, I felt strong,” he said.
“I never imagined taking the silver in the 50km. I never thought I would make it to the podium, so I didn’t bring clothes with me for the flowers ceremony.”
Olsson said the best he could do was follow Northug on the final climb.
“Of course I saw Petter on the last hill. He is very strong in the final so I took his back,” he said. “We were really, really tight at the finish.”
Canada’s Brian McKeever was set to become the first Paralympian to compete in a Winter Olympics by lining up in the event.
However, partially-sighted McKeever was left off Canada’s four-man team on Saturday. He will now compete in cross country at the Paralympics.
Devon Kershaw was Canada’s highest-placed finisher coming home in fifth place.