PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (Reuters) - Norway put on a dominant show as they swept the board in the first men’s cross-country skiing race at the Pyeongchang Olympics on Sunday, and coach Tor Arne Hetland said they have more top-class skiers waiting in the wings.
Simen Hegstad Krueger broke from the pack in the penultimate lap of the men’s 15km + 15km skiathlon and went on to take the gold medal, with team mates Martin Johnsrud Sundby and Hans Christer Holund taking silver and bronze respectively.
World Cup leader Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo was the only Norwegian not to get a medal today, but Hetland was in no way worried, as his charges will have plenty of chances to win medals during the Games.
“I’m super happy for the good results from the team, and the team effort was brilliant. Tactically, everything worked out well,” he told Reuters following Krueger’s superb display.
“Every one of the Norwegian racers has their own plan, and we know that everyone who is starting for Norway has a gold chance, that’s the reason it works so well when everything comes together,” he added.
The Norwegians were dominant throughout, racing almost as a pack at times, but Hetland felt they could have been even more aggressive as the race entered its decisive phase.
“I felt they were waiting a little bit too long to do that, Holund did it on one lap and maybe he made the other nations a little bit tired, then Krueger was doing it over again and then it finally went well,” he explained.
The 44-year-old former skier praised Sundby and Holund for not jeopardising Krueger’s chances by chasing him down too hard.
“The discipline form Sundby and Holund was great, when they were waiting, waiting, waiting behind, and then when they know the gap is big enough, then they escape for the second spot.”
The Norwegians blazed away from the field, sending a warning to the rest of the nations involved in one of the most physically demanding winter sports.
Speaking to a media conference, both Sundby and Holund mentioned the number of talented skiers that the Nordic nation has at its disposal, with the silver medallist revealing that he was not guaranteed a spot in the Norwegian relay team.
For Hetland, it was a pleasant dilemma that makes him the envy of the other coaches at the Olympics.
“For sure I could have four more racers on this level, but today it was this four that was racing, and it’s great to see that it worked out so well,” he said.
Reporting by Philip O'Connor; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty