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Norway's Simen Krüger falls, breaks pole in pileup, rallies to win gold medal in skiathlon

What a day for Norway’s skiathlon team.

Norway, a dominant force in cross-country skiing, was a heavy favorite for the medal stand before Sunday’s skiathlon event at the PyeongChang Olympics. But Simen Hegstad Krüger, fresh off a World Cup win in December, saw his hopes dashed early in the race.

Or so it seemed.

Krüger fell shortly after the start of Sunday’s race and got piled up with Russia’s Denis Spitsov and Andrey Larkov. He broke his pole. He was in last place in a field of 68 competitors.

A little more than an hour later, Krüger found himself first across the finish line cheering on teammates Martin Johnsrud Sundby and Hans Christer Holund to complete a Norway sweep of the men’s skiathlon podium.

Simen Hegstad Krüger waits for Norway teammates Martin Johnsrud Sundby and Hans Christer Holund at the finish line. (Getty)

“I thought it was over,” Krüger told reporters. “They pushed hard at the start too and I was just hoping that no one would go hard at the front in the wind. I had to keep pushing and hoping that it would calm down and then, all of a sudden, I was back up with them again.

“I was completely last in the group 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, ‘okay, take one lap, two laps, three laps and just get into it again, and try to do it on the final lap.'”

Simen Hegstad Krüger, 7, at the bottom of the pile after an early crash during Sunday’s skiathlon. (Reuters)

After digging a 36-second hole with the fall, Krüger managed to catch up and pass the pack on the penultimate lap and take a 20 second-lead over the field. His teammates eventually closed the gap, but his time of 1 hour, 16 minutes and 20 seconds was eight seconds better than Sundby, who took silver.

“It is an indescribable feeling,” Krüger said. “It is an amazing day, but it started in the worst possible way with the fall after the first 100 metres and a broken pole.”