Cross-country champ waits for last-place skier before celebrating gold medal win

·2 min read
Iivo Niskanen showed the ultimate display of sportsmanship at the Beijing Olympics. (Photo by Tom Weller/VOIGT/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)
Iivo Niskanen showed the ultimate display of sportsmanship at the Beijing Olympics. (Photo by Tom Weller/VOIGT/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)

After taking home cross-country skiing gold in the men’s 15km race at the Beijing Olympics, Finland’s Iivo Niskanen waited for the final competitor to cross the finish line before celebrating his victory.

Niskanen topped the podium with a time of 37:54.08, a whopping 23 seconds faster than the ROC’s Alexander Bolshunov, who finished in second.

However, it was Niskanen’s Olympic spirit that captured the hearts of people across the globe, as the 30-year-old waited for Colombia’s Carlos Andres Quintana to complete the race. Quintana finished last of the 95 skiers, with a time of 55:41.09.

Niskanen emphasized the need to respect all athletes because they have put blood, sweat and tears into qualifying for the Olympics. He also noted how some countries are not as financially privileged with their training as others.

“All athletes must respect each other,” Niskanen said of his decision to wait for Quintana to finish the race. “Everyone has worked hard to be here.

“You have to show this kind of respect at the Olympics towards countries that don’t have much budget to get the best results, unlike the best nations.”

Quintana, 36, also spoke about the heartwarming moment, lauding Niskanen for his professionalism, as well as bronze medalist Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo of Norway. He also lamented that he was not in top form.

“It was a good moment there. And then the Norwegian also congratulated me," Quintana said after the race. “It’s a consolation prize because I didn’t feel comfortable at all. From the start I didn’t feel well physically. I don’t know what happened, but physically I didn’t feel like it today.”

This is Niskanen’s second medal in Beijing after winning bronze in the 30km skiathlon. He earned gold in both the team sprint at the 2014 Games in Sochi and the 50km classic at PyeongChang in 2018.

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