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Bellingham and Watson guts it out in 50km Classic

24 February 2018

CROSS COUNTRY SKIING: Australia's Phil Bellingham and Callum Watson have dug deeper than they ever have before to complete one of the toughest Olympic events on the schedule - the men's 50km Classic. 

Bellingham claimed 56th and Watson 58th as they completed the course in just over two and a half hours.

Iivo Niskanen claimed Finland's first gold medal of PyeongChang 2018 ahead Olympic Athletes of Russia representatives Alexander Bolshunov and Andrey Larkov who took out the silver and bronze medals. 

For the Aussies though, today was about getting over the physical and mental hurdles in such a tough event. 

 "It was super tough," Bellingham said. 

"The pace started off alright and I kept up pretty well but at the 30km mark I started cramping up and didn't think I was going to make it. 

"Somehow I got through and I'm really happy that I stuck at it and managed to finish." 

https://twitter.com/AUSOlympicTeam/status/967264516990881803

Bellingham and Watson were in 59th and 60th as they passed the halfway and kept battling away.

"I really started to feel it at that 30km mark and I knew if I kept that pace up that I wasn't going to finish," Watson said.

"It was a bit of a strategic move to back it off and then at the end I was getting reeled in by the Chinese athlete but I wasn't going to let him pass me."

While the race started in reasonable conditions by the end of the race the course was covered in fog and it began snowing.

"It started off fairly well," Bellingham said.

"The fresh snow made it a lot slower and we were all out there a lot longer than we had to be."

In another display of the team camraderie evident amongst the Aussie Team, fellow cross country teammates Casey Wright and Callum's sister Aimee were out helping on course.

"They were giving feeds and doing a great job," Watson said.

"They were giving us all the hydration and energy we needed and it was great."

The event wraps up the duos program for the PyeongChang 2018 Games.

Jess Yeaton will the last Aussie to wear the green and gold in PyeongChang when she looks to show the same mental fortitude her teammates did today in the women's 30km Classic tomorrow (Day 16). The event kicks off at 3:15pm local time (5:15pm AEDT).

Matt  Bartolo
olympics.com.au

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