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Bolshunov wins third gold of Beijing Olympics in 30K race

ZHANGJIAKOU, CHINA (AP) – Alexander Bolshunov sprinted to his third Olympic gold medal yesterday in a 30-kilometre mass start cross-country ski race that was rescheduled and shortened because of strong wind and frigid temperatures.

The Russian was part of a five-man breakaway in the final kilometre. He pushed ahead on the final climb into the stadium, taking the title in one hour, 11 minutes, 32.7 seconds.

Russian teammate Ivan Yakimushkin crossed the line 5.5 seconds behind for silver, and Simen Hegstad Krueger of Norway took bronze, seven seconds behind.

Bolshunov also won gold in the skiathlon and the relay at the Beijing Games. He took silver in the 15-kilometre classic ski race and bronze in the team sprint.

World Cup leader Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo fell off the back of the lead group about 33 minutes into the race and took his bib off and walked off the tracks with about 7.9 kilometres to go.

The start of the race, originally scheduled to be 50 kilometres, was delayed for an hour and the length was reduced due to the weather conditions.

The temperature hovered around minus 18 degrees Celsius. The International Ski Federation said the decision was made “in regards to the athletes safety to reduce the time of exposure of athletes in extreme conditions”.

The brutal cold has taken a toll on the athletes. Most wore tape on their faces to protect against the wind and many had frost crested around their mouths at the end.