Host City: Chamonix, France
Venue(s): Olympic Stadium, Chamonix
Date Started: January 30, 1924
Date Finished: January 30, 1924
The classical 50 km race was the first cross country event in Chamonix, and it was the first time that the top skiers from the dominant Nordic countries met on “neutral” ground. The big Norwegian star Thorleif Haug had won the classical Holmenkollen 50 km (the only cross country event in Holmenkollen until 1933, when the 18 km was included in the program) five times between 1918 and 1923, but in 1922 the Norwegians were shocked by a Finnish double, when Anton Collin and Tapani Niku outclassed the Norwegians and Haug had to be content with a modest 9th place. It was the first time that a non-Norwegian was able to win in Holmenkollen. Besides Collin and Niku, the Norwegians also feared their Swedish neighbours. The small and quiet Torkel Persson, a native Sami from Jämtland, was considered as the strongest in the team together with Per-Erik Hedlund from Särna, the starting point of another Nordic classical competition, Vasaloppet.
The 33 competitors were met with cold and windy conditions when the first starter, the Frenchman André Blusset was sent away at 8:37 AM. The skiers started with intervals of one minute in a one-lap course with a really demanding height difference of 820 meters. First of the favorites was Collin with number 3, chased by the Norwegian Johan Grøttumsbraaten 1 minute behind. The big favorite Haug started as number 23, chasing Niku 2 minutes ahead of him.
Already in the early stages of the race, it was clear that this would be a great day for the Norwegians. Collin broke one of his skies and had to give up. Grøttumsbraaten had a 1.30 lead over Haug after 20 km, followed by Matti Raivio, Hedlund, Niku and the two other Norwegians, Jon Mårdalen and Thoralf Strømstad. 10 km later all four Norwegians were in front. Haug had overtaken Grøttumsbraaten by one minute, with Strømstad 7 and Mårdalen 8 minutes behind. Niku and Hedlund were fading, 15 and 16 minutes behind Haug, and both gave up shortly after. Strømstad was fastest in the last stage of the race and passed Grøttumsbraaten, but Haug kept his lead to the finish, and his victory margin to Strømstad was a clear 1.51. Mårdalen finished his last 20 km 6 minutes faster than Grøttumsbraaten, but had to be content with 4th place. Persson in 5th place was 16 minutes behind Mårdalen, and all 8 skiers from the Nordic countries that finished the race took the 8th first places. The Italians were the best of the Middle Europeans, placing 9-10-11-13.
The Norwegian journalist Finn Amundsen, later a famous sports commentator for Norwegain radio, wired an enthusiastic report home to his paper Idrætsliv under the heading “Vi viste verden vinterveien!” (We showed the world the winter way!), later to become a famous slogan for Norwegian winter sports.
|AC||Per Erik Hedlund||26||Sweden||SWE||DNF|