The dramatic race change was announced at the Olympic Stadium just an hour before the race started on Saturday. At the same time, the start was postponed for an hour, until 08:00 Norwegian time.
The FIS’ (The International Ski Federation) justification is strong winds and what they refer to as “extreme conditions”. They wrote that the decision to cut the distance from 50 to 28.4 kilometers was about the safety of the athletes.
The reactions were overwhelming both before and after the race that Alexander Bolshunov won.
– I think you should at least try to complete five miles. “They have a weather forecast in China, so we knew it was going to be a sunny day,” said Hans Christer Holund, who is one of the favourites, but number 13.
– Doesn’t seem well thought out
Holund points out that the women’s joint start in biathlon is moved one day forward, and believes that there may be something cross-country skiing should also consider. On Saturday, cross-country skiers were already warming up and preparing when they received the message.
– Did they fall behind when they made that decision when they made the decision so late?
– Yes, they really did. When they changed an hour before starting, it didn’t seem well thought out, Holund told NRK.
Bronze winner Simen Hegstad Krüger also believes it will be possible to walk a further 21.6 kilometers.
– We’re ready for the whole gang five miles today, and that’s what we’re looking forward to. You only try to readjust when you get the message, he says, and emphasizes that he respects the decision.
– I think it’s going well, but it’s hard to say. It wouldn’t be fun if people freeze and pass out, so it’s probably okay to cut in. We don’t know, Kruger said.
Norway’s cross-country manager Espen Bjervig explained to NRK that his feedback to the jury earlier today was that they should think about it carefully.
– What a joke?
But many also did not respond as well as the Norwegian delegation at the stadium in Zhangjiakou. Britain’s Andrew Musgrave lashed out at the jury’s decision on Twitter before the race started.
– FIS just shortened the Olympics by five miles to 28 kilometers because it was a bit cold and windy. I can’t see how that makes it warmer or less cold. What a joke, he wrote.
– I have to say I’m annoyed. I don’t know what they do. Before the team was notified that the race had been shortened, it was in the Norwegian media. This is ridiculous, Musgrave told NRK.
The FIS (International Ski Federation) and race director Pierre Mignerey did not respond to NRK’s questions on Saturday.
Musgrave’s coach and leader for Great Britain, Jostein Vinjerui, told NRK that he thought the decision was very boring. After all, they had prepared to walk the arduous 50 kilometers.
– I also don’t think his condition is any worse than the other days. It’s a bit windy today, but not that cold. I think it was colder at 30 kilometers with ski changes and especially the women’s run was cooler than it is now. Final sprint in the evening and much colder than it feels right now.
– Most of the team is not happy
The coach of the Russian Olympic Committee, Markus Cramer, was clear about their position.
– We’re not happy about this, he told Discovery.
He said he had spoken to multiple coaches, without mentioning countries other than Sweden specifically, and Cramer claimed “everyone” should want the FIS race postponed until Sunday. The coach said the weather forecast, both in terms of the number of degrees below zero and at least wind, was much more promising at the time.
– Everyone wants to walk 50 kilometers. Not 30. Most teams are not happy.
He was also asked about Andrew Musgrave’s strong game in the morning Norway time.
– I don’t agree with Andrew. Those are very difficult conditions today. They must pay attention to practitioners’ health. We don’t want frozen fingers. But it’s possible to wait until tomorrow to make a decision.
– The charm is gone
Cold weather has been a challenge during the Olympics in China, but on Saturday it was the wind that was really the big problem. Stands that housed TV cameras were strewn across the press zone.
The wind is constant with gusts that can throw you off balance if you’re not prepared. A blizzard rose from the ground as it exploded.
This was especially evident in the stadium area, where athletes wanted to hit the wall when they passed the final corner and had to stomp on the run.
NRK cross-country expert Torgeir Bjørn thinks otherwise when you’ve only walked 30 miles.
– The charm is gone. Femmil is the most prestigious sport at the Olympics, but to achieve it, you actually have to walk 50 miles, says NRK expert Torgeir Bjørn.
He added that the health of the athletes must be prioritized and understand the jury’s decision. But there will be no true five-mile king.
“Social media guru. Total beer fanatic. Tv ninja. Typical coffee fan. Amateur entrepreneur. Unapologetic food scholar.”