| Event type

15 kilometres, Men

Date17 February 1980 — 9:00
LocationMt. Van Hoevenberg Recreation Area, Lake Placid
Participants63 from 22 countries
DetailsCourse Length: ?
Height Differential: 124 m
Intermediate 1: 5.0 km
Intermediate 2: 10.0 km
Maximum Climb: 51 m
Total Climbing: 460 m

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.

163Thomas WassbergSWE41:57.63Gold
254Juha MietoFIN41:57.64Silver
362Ove AunliNOR42:28.62Bronze
441Nikolay ZimyatovURS42:33.96
514Yevgeny BelyayevURS42:46.02
653Józef ŁuszczekPOL42:59.03
72Aleksandr ZavyalovURS43:00.81
833Harri KirvesniemiFIN43:02.01
930Oddvar BråNOR43:05.64
105Lars Erik EriksenNOR43:11.51
1129Thomas ErikssonSWE43:11.88
1240Jochen BehleFRG43:16.05
1358Vasily RochevURS43:16.86
1451Jean-Paul PierratFRA43:32.53
1559Ivan LebanovBUL43:37.32
1649Bill KochUSA43:38.56
1744Benny KohlbergSWE43:39.22
1810Sven-Erik DanielssonSWE43:41.21
1911Kari HärkönenFIN43:50.31
2027Pertti TeurajärviFIN43:59.08
2131Wolfgang MüllerFRG44:02.54
2236Stan DunkleeUSA44:03.84
2339Jiří ŠvubTCH44:20.15
2450Jiří BeranTCH44:27.78
2522Tim CaldwellUSA44:30.41
267Peter ZipfelFRG44:38.23
2755Franz RenggliSUI44:38.66
2847Paul FargeixFRA44:39.94
2938Konrad HallenbarterSUI44:42.12
3048Tore GullenNOR44:42.73
3160Maurilio De ZoltITA44:43.19
3215Hans-Ueli KreuzerSUI44:44.66
3312Jim GalanesUSA44:46.48
343Giorgio VanzettaITA44:52.18
354Alfred SchindlerSUI44:52.93
3652Dieter NotzFRG44:54.11
3756Alf-Gerd DeckertGDR45:00.40
3845Hristo BarzanovBUL45:05.21
3937Giulio CapitanioITA45:10.40
401František ŠimonTCH45:12.09
4143Ivo ČarmanYUG45:14.32
4217Gérard Durand-PoudretFRA45:47.26
4342Shiro SatoJPN46:15.29
4420Miloš BečvářTCH46:18.13
458Dominique LocatelliFRA47:06.72
4625Tone ĐurišičYUG47:38.45
4721Haukur SigurðssonISL47:44.00
4819Luvsandashiin DorjMGL48:05.78
4935Charles MacIvorGBR48:37.57
5023Lin GuanghaoCHN48:38.36
5113Þröstur JóhannessonISL49:37.75
529Michael GoodeGBR49:47.20
5328Emiliano MorlansESP50:42.33
5432Ingólfur JónssonISL50:51.50
556José GiroESP51:30.06
5634Marcos Luis JermanARG52:02.42
5724Philip JacklinGBR52:14.17
5846Kim Nam-YoungKOR53:05.55
5918Hwang Byung-DaeKOR53:05.60
6026Martín Tomás JermanARG53:38.47
6161Matías José JermanARG55:50.61
DNF16Giampaolo RupilITA
DNF57Kim Dong-HwanKOR