Olympic-Nordic combined-Wrong turn costs Riiber his shot at gold

2 minute read

2022 Beijing Olympics - Individual Gundersen Large Hill/10km, Cross-Country - National Cross-Country Centre, Zhangjiakou, China - February 15, 2022. Jarl Magnus Riiber of Norway in action. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson

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ZHANGJIAKOU, China, Feb 15 (Reuters) - Norway's Jarl Magnus Riiber won his race against time to compete in Tuesday's large hill/10 km event at the Beijing Olympics, but there was to be no gold medal miracle as a wrong turn on the ski course cost him dear.

After testing positive for COVID-19 on his arrival in China, the 24-year-old world number two got out of quarantine on Monday and led after the ski jumping round, but he was reeled in by compatriots Joergen Graabak and Jens Oftebro who took gold and silver.

"I had two days with very hard symptoms with corona and I was starting to train a little bit, building it a little bit up to perform on this day," a disconsolate Riiber told reporters.

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"But I have been locked inside for two weeks, not breathing fresh air and not being friends with the snow and the cold weather here. So yeah, then the body's not working. I'm normally one of the better skiers as well, and today I was just bad."

Gold medallist Graabak had sympathy for Riiber and Kristjan Ilves, the Estonian who often trains with the Norwegians and who also tested positive for COVID-19 before finishing ninth on Tuesday.

"It must be really rough. I've seen them training in the hotel room and they've both been creative in dealing with the situation in the best possible way," Graabak said.

"I've been really impressed with the way they have handled the situation but of course, it's not ideal to stay inside for 10 days and then come straight out and compete in this condition."

Riiber appeared to suffer from a mental lapse at the end of the first lap, heading for the finish line instead of back onto the course for the remaining two laps.

That error cut his handsome lead of almost a minute, and he was soon swallowed up by the chasing pack.

"I was actually quite focused on the technique and the pace, and I was staring down and suddenly when I was raising the head, I see the finish line and then I thought, okay -- this is not my Olympics," he said with an ironic chuckle.

The world number two is hoping to recover in time for Thursday's team event.

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Reporting by Philip O'Connor, editing by Ed Osmond

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