The finish of the Olympic triathlon Sunday was like a segment out of the classic ABC’s Wide World of Sports “thrill of victory and agony of defeat” intro, except Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt felt the agony of victory.
The gutty Norwegian dug his way out of a fifth-place hole after the 1,500-meter swim and 40-kilometer bike legs of the event to outpace Britain’s Alex Yee and New Zealand’s Hayden Wilde on the 10-kilometer run.
Blummenfelt, who at age 27 is built more like a middleweight wrestler than a flyweight distance athlete, left it all on the triathlon finish line, literally, and earned gold for his effort. Though Norway is always a dominant force in the Winter Games with more medals than any other nation, this was Norway’s first gold medal in the Summer Games since London 2012 when it topped the podium in handball and the canoe sprint.
Yee, 23 years old, was the world champion coming into Tokyo and looked as if he would add Olympic gold to his résumé as he took off on the final leg of the competition. The 29-year-old Wilde was on his heels, gunning for his country’s first medal of the Games.
Blummenfelt climbed off his bike in fifth, passed Wilde, caught Yee with less than 3 kilometers to go, and then left Yee in the dust, finishing in 1 hour, 45 minutes, 4 seconds — which gave the Norwegian plenty of time to raise his arms in celebration, collapse, and writhe on the ground, and puke twice after Yee and Wilde crossed the line behind him.
American Kevin McDowell finished sixth, which is the best finish the United States has had in the Olympic triathlon since the event was added in 2000.