Never Say Die: Simen Hegstad Krueger Comes Back in Skiathlon from Dead Last to Win Gold Convincingly

Martin Johnsrud Sundby (L) Simen Hegstad Krueger (C) Hans Christer Holund (R)
Martin Johnsrud Sundby (L) Simen Hegstad Krueger (C) Hans Christer Holund (R) lead a 1-2-3 Norwegian podium sweep in the skiathlon; Yonhap/IANS

It’s an embarrassment of riches. Norway has dominated the medals table at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, easily eclipsing Germany, Canada and the US in the medal count.

In fact, in the cross country skiing event called the skiathlon on February 11, 2018, a first-time Norwegian Olympian, Simen Hegstad Krueger, gave the entire field of skiers a huge advantage, and still won handily.

To be honest, there is nothing easy about cross-country skiing, which is a grueling sport that requires tremendous levels of endurance. In the skiathlon, competitors have to ski 15 kilometers in the classical technique (similar to a walking motion), and 15 more kilometers in the freestyle technique (similar to a ice skating motion).

And Krueger, who was in the middle of the pack of 68 competitors, was given an even greater challenge. Tripped at the start of the 30-kilometer race, only 200 meters into the start, he fell to the snow, taking down two OAR athletes who fell on top of him. In the fall, one of his poles had snapped, and he had to get another one from his coach.

Suddenly , Krueger was dead last.

A fall like this would demoralize a large number of athletes. But Krueger took it one push of his poles at a time. “I was completely last in the group,” Krueger said in this NBC article, “so I had to start the race again and switch focus to catch up with the guys. When I did it, I was (saying to myself), ‘OK, take one lap, two laps, three laps and just get into it again.”

Simen Hegstad Krueger below two OAR skiers
Krueger takes a spill_Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

As Business Insider showed in this pictorial of Krueger’s progress, the Norwegian put together an amazing come back, passing 62 other skiers over the next 22 kilometers, moving into 5th place with 8 kilometers left.

Finding another gear, Krueger all but forgot his spill and last-place re-start, and moved into the lead, and built it. As Business Insider put it, “In a performance that can best be described as some combination of awesome, courageous, and (Katie) Ledeckian, Krueger put distance between himself and the rest of the field.”

Krueger won the 30-kilometer skiathlon 8 seconds ahead of Martin Johnsrud Sundby and almost 10 seconds ahead of Hans Christer Holund, making it a podium sweep for Norway.

“It is an indescribable feeling,” Krueger said. “It is an amazing day, but it started in the worst way with the fall after the first 100 meters and a broken pole. I was thinking this is over.”

Krueger was in it for the long haul, and as they say, it isn’t over until it’s over.