Iivo Niskanen secured Finland's first gold medal of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games with victory in the men’s 50 kilometres mass start classic event ©Getty Images

Finland's Iivo Niskanen beat Olympic Athletes from Russia’s (OAR) Alexander Bolshunov to the men’s 50 kilometres mass start classic gold medal on the penultimate day of cross-country action at the Winter Olympics here. 

Niskanen crossed the line in 2 hours 08min 22.1sec at the Alpensia Cross-Country Centre, winning by a margin of 18.7 seconds over Bolshunov to secure his country’s first gold medal of the Games.

Victory sees the 26-year-old double his own Olympic gold medal tally to two having also partnered Sami Jauhojärvi to team sprint success at Sochi 2014.  

He becomes the fourth Finnish cross-country skier to win multiple gold medals in the sport after three-time victors Veikko Hakulinen, Eero Mantyranta and Marja-Liisa Kirvesniemi.

Bolshunov was overtaken by Niskanen, who himself had led for much of the race, with just over a kilometre remaining and was unable to keep touch with his rival.

"It was a big dream," Niskanen said on winning gold.

Bolshunov’s second-place finish ensured a fourth medal for him at Pyeongchang 2018, having also won silvers in the team sprint and 4x10 relay, and bronze in the individual sprint.

The 21-year-old’s haul equals cross-country skiers Marit Bjørgen of Norway and Charlotte Kalla of Sweden for most medals won in any sport at Pyeongchang 2018.

He felt, however, that he had missed an opportunity to triumph today.

OAR's Alexander Bolshunov was bitterly disappointed with his second-place finish ©Getty Images
OAR's Alexander Bolshunov was bitterly disappointed with his second-place finish ©Getty Images

"I am disappointed because today I could win gold medal," Bolshunov said.

"It was a little tactic fault from me - maybe I should have changed my skis.

"With those skis I could not fight for the gold medal at the finish line with Niskanen.

"It is just my fault."

With Andrey Larkov taking the bronze medal, OAR has two spots on the podium for the second time at Pyeongchang 2018 after yesterday’s women’s singles figure skating gold and silver double from Alina Zagitova and Evgenia Medvedeva.

This was the first cross-country event at Pyeongchang 2018 in which Norway failed to win a medal.

Martin Johnsrud Sundby was the highest-ranked Norwegian in fifth place and was followed by Hans Christer Holund in sixth.

Canada’s Alex Harvey finished fourth.

Cross-country skiing action at Pyeongchang 2018 is due to conclude tomorrow with the women's 30km mass start classic event.