Ireland’s Thomas Maloney Westgaard. Bryan Keane/INPHO

'It's quite windy in Galway as well' - Maloney Westgaard finishes 29th amid challenging conditions

The 26-year-old had targeted a top-30 finish and consequently was satisfied with his performance

IRELAND’S THOMAS Maloney Westgaard finished 29th in the Cross-Country Skiing 50km Mass Start Free at the Winter Olympics in Beijing today.

The event was reduced on the day to 28km due to strong winds and extremely low temperatures.

Russia’s Alexander Bolshunov added to his medal haul, claiming gold ahead of teammate Ivan Yakimushkin, while Norway’s Simen Hegsted Krueger secured the bronze medal.

26-year-old Maloney Westgaard had targeted a top-30 finish and consequently was satisfied with his performance in challenging conditions.

“It was a race to remember for sure, in many ways,” he said. “I’m really happy with my performance, first-ever top 30 in a skate race. That was the goal before the race, to come top 30 and I managed it. So I’m really, really happy.

“It was a struggle out there. At some stages, I was happy that it wasn’t the 50K, but yeah, it was a cold experience and tough conditions, but we are quite used to it. It’s quite windy in Galway as well, so we are prepared for this.”

On the race itself, he added: “I knew that in the group we were racing for everything from 28th to 34th place. And it’s a big difference to be in those positions for a cross-country skier.

“When you are in the top 30, everyone considers you as a good skier. So when we were in that group I tried to be a bit more tactical, to stay more in the middle of the group and to have a good position, not going too early.

“I knew that in the last 2km there is a really long hill of about 600m. I knew that you can do an awful lot in that last kilometre if you have your energy, so the main thing for me was to spare that energy and then just go for the last 500m. And I really did that, I think I made the right decision there, and I had absolutely nothing left when I crossed the finish line.”

The culmination of the event brings an end to Ireland’s participation at this year’s Winter Olympics, and the team can reflect on some outstanding performances that will go down as some of the best in the country’s 30-year history of competing in these Games.

Maloney Westgaard’s 14th place in the 15km Classic Race last week, in addition to Jack Gower’s 12th place in the Alpine Combined, were among the highlights.

The flagbearer for tomorrow’s closing ceremony is expected to be announced shortly.

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