'True Olympic spirit': Gold medallist's beautiful act at Beijing Games

Iivo Niskanen waited for Carlos Andres Quintana to finish in a stunning display of sportsmanship at the Winter Olympics. Image: Getty
Iivo Niskanen waited for Carlos Andres Quintana to finish in a stunning display of sportsmanship at the Winter Olympics. Image: Getty

Finnish skier Iivo Niskanen has won worldwide praise at the Winter Olympics for a stunning act of sportsmanship that perfectly illustrated the Olympic spirit.

Niskanen took control of the 15km cross-country race on Friday and proved his dominance in classic skiing.

However it was his actions after the race that have won praise from fans around the world.

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Niskanen crossed the line and collapsed with a time of 37 minutes and 54.8 seconds.

It was his third Olympic gold medal after winning the 50km classic race in Pyeongchang four years ago and the classic team sprint at the 2014 Games in Sochi.

An exhausted Niskanen could have been forgiven for leaving the finishing area and getting some rest, however the gold medallist waited around until every one of his competitors had crossed the line.

Iivo Niskanen and Carlos Andres Quintana, pictured here after the cross-country 15km classic at the Winter Olympics.
Iivo Niskanen embraces Carlos Andres Quintana after the cross-country 15km classic at the Winter Olympics. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Carlos Andres Quintana of Colombia crossed the line in last place, nearly 18 minutes after Niskanen finished.

But the Finn was standing right there to greet Quintana with congratulations and a beautiful embrace.

“All athletes must respect each other,” Niskanen said afterwards.

“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.”

The powerful moment lit up social media.

Iivo Niskanen's redemption at Winter Olympics

Niskanen said he'd been waiting eight years for redemption after finishing fourth in the event in Sochi.

“Actually I felt so strong today and it was under control the whole race," he said.

“This victory means a lot to me. I was fourth, 0.2 seconds behind the medal in Sochi, at this distance, and it’s been a long eight years to wait for this race again in the Olympic program."

The Russian athletes out-skied Niskanen in the opening cross-country race of the Beijing Olympics, but the Finn took complete control in the 15km.

“After skiathlon, the Russians were so strong that I have to say that (Alexander) Bolshunov lived in my head five days after that, but now he’s moved away,” Niskanen said.

“I was so worried about the speed (in the skiathlon), but classic 15km has been a perfect distance for me.”

Bolshunov finished 23.2 seconds behind Niskanen to earn silver.

“On one hand, I am happy. But on the other, I was still aiming for the victory," the Russian athlete said.

“I wanted to fight until the very finish today, but Iivo was a lot stronger. However, there are still races in which I can fight for gold.”

Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo of Norway, the overall World Cup leader and sprint leader, secured the bronze 37.5 seconds behind Niskanen.

“I’m really satisfied," Klaebo said. "For me, the third place today was as good as a gold medal.

"It’s my first podium in a distance race in a championship, so doing it in an individual race as well, it’s really special. Really an amazing feeling.”

This year’s 15km cross-country race was in the classic ski style and covered two laps of the 7.5km course.

The race alternates between classic and freestyle every Olympic cycle.

with Associated Press

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