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Bolshunov wins third Beijing Games gold

Alexander Bolshunov has sprinted to his third Olympic gold medal in the mass start cross-country ski race that was rescheduled and shortened because of the weather.

The race was shortened from 50km and held an hour later than scheduled on Saturday afternoon 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.

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

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

Australian Seve de Campo was 51st out of 59 finishers, crossing the line 9:29.8 behind Bolshunov.

Compatriot Phil Bellingham finished 53rd at 11:31.1.

World Cup leader Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo fell off the back of the lead group about 30 minutes into the race. He took his bib off and walked off the tracks with about 7.9 kilometers to go.

The temperature hovered about -18C and that, coupled with strong wind, prompted the event changes.

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.

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