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Cross Country Skiing at the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Games:

Men's 15 kilometres

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Host City: Lake Placid, United States
Venue(s): Mt. Van Hoevenberg Recreation Area, Lake Placid
Date Started: February 17, 1980
Date Finished: February 17, 1980

Gold: SWE Thomas Wassberg
Silver: FIN Juha Mieto
Bronze: NOR Ove Aunli

Summary

The 15 km cross-country race developed into the closest duel in the history of cross-country skiing. The two main roles in the drama were played by a young Swede, Thomas Wassberg, and a Finnish veteran with an impressive collection of silver medals from international championships, the big Juha Mieto, 197 cm tall and weighing around 100 kg. Wassberg started last of the 63 participants, half a minute behind the best Norwegian, Ove Aunli. Mieto, wearing start number 54, started half a minute behind the reigning world champion at the distance, the Pole Józef Łuszczek.

Wassberg started fast, and at the 5 km mark he had caught Aunli and was in the lead, three seconds ahead of Mieto. Łuszczek also had a strong opener, only ten seconds behind the leader, closely followed by a real surprise, the 19-year old West German Jochem Behle and the 30 km winner Nikolay Zimyatov. At 10 km Wassberg had increased his lead to 4.8 seconds. Mieto, still in second place, had almost caught Łuszczek, starting half a minute in front of him, but the Pole was still in third place, now 30 seconds behind the leader. Yevgeny Belyayev had advanced from 11th to fourth., and his teammate Zimyatov was down in sixth place. Aunli had been able to adjust his speed and was on Wassberg’s heels, advancing from 13th to fifth place. Only two seconds separated the four skiers behind Wassberg and Mieto 5 km from home. Young Behle had dropped down to ninth and was out of contention for the medals.

First of the favorites to finish was Zimyatov, looking very fresh at the finish and beating Belyayev’s final time by 12 seconds. But Mieto finished even faster. The Finn had passed Łuszczek, quickly left the Pole behind, and crossed the finish line in 41:57.64, beating Zimyatov’s time by 36 seconds. Could Wassberg respond to Mieto’s finish? The Swede, still skiing together with Aunli, was told 500 m from home that he had a one second lead over Mieto, and, fighting desperately, crossed the finish line in 41:57.63. He had won by the closest possible margin, one hundredth of a second! Aunli secured the bronze medal for Norway, beating Zimyatov by 5 seconds.

Wassberg, then 23, had made his Olympic début in 1976 as a teenager. Before the 1978 World Championships, he was severely injured in a car accident, but fought his way back to the international elite by hard and determined work. Mieto, starting in his third Olympics, ended his career with three individual silver medals in international championships, his 1976 Olympics relay gold medal his only championship victory. In 2007, this extremely popular athlete, who had six wins at Holmenkollen from 1973-1978, was elected a member of the Finnish parliament. At the 1972 Olympics he was involved in another close duel, losing the bronze medal by a margin of 0.06 seconds in the 15 km race. Wassberg proposed to Mieto that they could cut their medals in two parts and then melt them together as a mixed gold-silver medal. Mieto politely thanked him, but said no to the idea, and ended the 1980 season by winning the cross-country World Cup for the second time in a row. The International Skiing Federation (FIS) decided shortly after the 1980 Olympics that all times in cross-country races would henceforth be rounded to the nearest tenth of a second.

Final Standings

Rank Athlete Age Team NOC Medal T I1T I1R I2T I2R
1 Thomas Wassberg 23 Sweden SWE Gold 41:57.63 13:22.08 1 25:47.14 1
2 Juha Mieto 30 Finland FIN Silver 41:57.64 13:25.00 2 25:51.97 2
3 Ove Aunli 23 Norway NOR Bronze 42:28.62 13:52.75 13 26:18.73 5
4 Nikolay Zimyatov 24 Soviet Union URS 42:33.96 13:40.84 5 26:21.13 6
5 Yevgeny Belyayev 25 Soviet Union URS 42:46.02 13:47.20 11 26:18.27 4
6 Józef Łuszczek 24 Poland POL 42:59.03 13:32.96 3 26:17.99 3
7 Aleksandr Zavyalov 24 Soviet Union URS 43:00.81 13:46.82 9 26:37.12 12
8 Harri Kirvesniemi 21 Finland FIN 43:02.01 13:46.86 10 26:30.06 7
9 Oddvar Brå 28 Norway NOR 43:05.64 13:44.95 6 26:32.54 8
10 Lars Erik Eriksen 25 Norway NOR 43:11.51 14:03.51 16 26:37.83 13
11 Thomas Eriksson 20 Sweden SWE 43:11.88 13:51.19 12 26:36.01 10
12 Jochen Behle 19 West Germany FRG 43:16.05 13:35.23 4 26:33.59 9
13 Vasily Rochev 28 Soviet Union URS 43:16.86 13:45.38 7 26:39.28 14
14 Jean-Paul Pierrat 27 France FRA 43:32.53 14:09.94 23 26:55.94 16
15 Ivan Lebanov 22 Bulgaria BUL 43:37.32 13:53.92 14 26:53.25 15
16 Bill Koch 24 United States USA 43:38.56 13:45.93 8 26:36.90 11
17 Benny Kohlberg 25 Sweden SWE 43:39.22 14:07.08 18 27:08.14 22
18 Sven-Erik Danielsson 20 Sweden SWE 43:41.21 14:07.41 19 26:59.90 18
19 Kari Härkönen 20 Finland FIN 43:50.31 14:07.54 20 27:01.96 19
20 Pertti Teurajärvi 28 Finland FIN 43:59.08 14:09.49 21 27:04.12 21
21 Wolfgang Müller 24 West Germany FRG 44:02.54 14:00.32 15 27:27.79 29
22 Stan Dunklee 25 United States USA 44:03.84 14:12.65 25 27:04.09 20
23 Jiří Švub 21 Czechoslovakia TCH 44:20.15 14:13.68 27 27:17.37 24
24 Jiří Beran 28 Czechoslovakia TCH 44:27.78 14:27.71 39 27:38.03 35
25 Tim Caldwell 26 United States USA 44:30.41 14:09.50 22 27:17.16 23
26 Peter Zipfel 23 West Germany FRG 44:38.23 14:13.72 28 27:29.37 31
27 Franz Renggli 27 Switzerland SUI 44:38.66 14:22.40 34 27:30.58 32
28 Paul Fargeix 24 France FRA 44:39.94 14:27.05 38 27:35.30 34
29 Konrad Hallenbarter 26 Switzerland SUI 44:42.12 14:11.30 24 27:27.50 28
30 Tore Gullen 30 Norway NOR 44:42.73 14:17.77 31 27:25.76 26
31 Maurilio De Zolt 29 Italy ITA 44:43.19 14:13.00 26 27:21.32 25
32 Hansüli Kreuzer 29 Switzerland SUI 44:44.66 14:30.16 40 27:44.76 39
33 Jim Galanes 23 United States USA 44:46.48 14:20.78 32 27:29.15 30
34 Giorgio Vanzetta 20 Italy ITA 44:52.18 14:14.98 29 27:31.16 33
35 Alfred Schindler 22 Switzerland SUI 44:52.93 14:26.20 37 27:26.47 27
36 Dieter Notz 24 West Germany FRG 44:54.11 14:05.18 17 26:58.06 17
37 Alf-Gerd Deckert 24 East Germany GDR 45:00.40 14:17.60 30 27:42.86 38
38 Khristo Barzanov 23 Bulgaria BUL 45:05.21 14:41.16 43 27:55.51 41
39 Giulio Capitanio 27 Italy ITA 45:10.40 14:24.49 36 27:39.55 36
40 František Šimon 26 Czechoslovakia TCH 45:12.09 14:24.31 35 27:52.22 40
41 Ivo Čarman 20 Yugoslavia YUG 45:14.32 14:21.64 33 27:41.63 37
42 Gérard Durand-Poudret 20 France FRA 45:47.26 14:40.48 42 28:04.85 43
43 Shiro Sato 26 Japan JPN 46:15.29 14:54.45 44 28:30.86 44
44 Miloš Bečvář 23 Czechoslovakia TCH 46:18.13 14:30.57 41 28:01.55 42
45 Dominique Locatelli 19 France FRA 47:06.72 15:04.66 45 28:53.17 45
46 Tone Đurišič 18 Yugoslavia YUG 47:38.45 15:16.12 47 29:15.63 46
47 Haukur Sigurðsson 23 Iceland ISL 47:44.00 15:10.03 46 29:21.08 47
48 Luvsandashiin Dorj 36 Mongolia MGL 48:05.78 15:36.44 49 29:47.88 48
49 Charles MacIvor 23 Great Britain GBR 48:37.57 15:37.31 50 29:53.75 49
50 Lin Guanghao 20 China CHN 48:38.36 15:32.87 48 29:57.55 50
51 Þröstur Jóhannesson 24 Iceland ISL 49:37.75 15:40.69 51 30:26.65 51
52 Michael Goode 27 Great Britain GBR 49:47.20 15:46.31 52 30:47.55 52
53 Emiliano Morlans 27 Spain ESP 50:42.33 16:14.23 56 30:58.56 54
54 Ingólfur Jónsson 27 Iceland ISL 50:51.50 16:15.97 57 30:57.96 53
55 José Giro 24 Spain ESP 51:30.06 16:11.92 54 31:09.04 55
56 Marcos Luis Jerman 23 Argentina ARG 52:02.42 16:05.10 53 31:30.50 56
57 Philip Jacklin 27 Great Britain GBR 52:14.17 16:12.65 55 31:49.22 57
58 Kim Nam-Young 21 South Korea KOR 53:05.55 16:49.87 58 32:27.96 58
59 Hwang Byung-Dae 19 South Korea KOR 53:05.60 16:56.06 59 32:29.52 59
60 Martín Tomás Jerman 20 Argentina ARG 53:38.47 17:09.51 60 33:00.95 60
61 Matías José Jerman 24 Argentina ARG 55:50.61 17:48.94 61 34:22.03 61
AC Giampaolo Rupil 24 Italy ITA DNF
AC Kim Dong-Hwan 20 South Korea KOR DNF