Norwegian skier blows chance at Winter Olympic gold after going wrong way

Norway’s Jarl Magnus Riiber has had a Winter Olympics in Beijing to forget. Having tested positive for Covid he has spent two weeks in isolation, unable to train, and was only released on Monday. Cleared to compete today in the Nordic combined large hill/10km he put himself well in contention for a medal.

Having recorded the longest and highest-scoring ski jump earlier in the day, he set off first for the cross-country element with a 44-second time advantage over the rest of the field. And then he took a wrong turn. Unfamiliar with the course, he went the wrong way. He had to turn around, but the time taken virtually wiped out his entire lead, and he eventually faded to finish in eighth place.

“It’s a silly mistake,” Riiber said afterwards. “It’s not fun to show the world that I maybe wasted a gold medal. I had been locked inside for two weeks, not breathing fresh air. My body is not working. Normally, I’m one of the better skiers and today I was just bad.”

Jarl Magnus Riiber set himself a commanding lead for the cross-country with a phenomenal jump of 142m. Photograph: Andrew Medichini/AP

Norway, of course, have winter athletes to spare, and despite Riiber’s misfortune, they still secured a gold-silver one-two with Joergen Graabak finishing 0.4 seconds ahead of Jens Lurås Oftebro. It is possible the cold got to Riiber’s mind. The race was bought forward 30 minutes to try and avoid the worst of the weather, but the temperature still dipped below -20C, officially the temperature below which cross-country races are usually postponed.

There was also a last-minute failure in the women’s team pursuit final in the National Speed Skating Oval, as Canada were handed the gold medal on a plate after the Japanese team crashed out while well placed on the final bend. The Canadians eventually took their nation’s second gold of these games with more than 11 seconds to spare. It was Nana Takagi, the last of Japan’s three women, who lost her balance when they looked set not only for the win, but on course to break their own Olympic Record. She was left in tears as her teammates – her sister, Miho, and Ayano Sato – attempted to console her.

The moment the Japanese team knew their gold was gone. Photograph: Phil Noble/Reuters

And on a day in Beijing of extraordinary last-moment drama, a terrible final shooting round by Eduard Latypov of the Russian Olympic Committee in the men’s biathlon 4 x 7.5km relay cost his team a certain gold. They were more than 50 seconds ahead of the Norwegian athletes when anchor leg Latypov went into the shooting range – but he racked up two penalty loops with a series of misses under pressure.

An exhausted and dejected Eduard Latypov of ROC at the finish line. Photograph: Patrick Smith/Getty Images

“I tried at first to wait, but I understood that I have to work faster. There was this gust of wind and my feeling was not so good, the concentration was not what I wanted it to be. That, with the gusts of wind, made me make the misses,” a distraught Latypov said. “I tried to change things up, but here it was more of a psychological issue.”

His teammates and fellow competitors tried to comfort him at the finish line, as the ROC team slumped to bronze position behind both Norway and France.

• Agencies contributed to this report