Alexander Bolshunov earned his third gold medal of Beijing 2022 ©Getty Images

Alexander Bolshunov ended his superb 2022 Winter Olympics with victory in the men’s mass start competition, in an event shortened to 30 kilometres due to strong winds at the Zhangjiakou National Cross-Country Skiing Centre.

The race was initially scheduled to be 50km, but strong winds led to a delayed start and a reduction in length.

Bolshunov thrived in the challenging conditions, with the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) skier controlling the pace in the leading group.

The 25-year-old made a break with three kilometres remaining of the event, pulling clear to add to his skiathlon and relay triumphs.

Bolshunov crossed the line in a winning time of 1hr 11min 32.7sec.

Bolshunov wore golden ski shoes after the event, marking a Games where he earned three gold and two bronze medals.

"It is an unbelievable performance because in all the races that I took part in I won medals - and of these, three are gold," he said.

"This is a huge accomplishment.

"I am very happy and I want to say a big thank you to my team.

"I saw these shoes after the first day when I got the gold medal, and I said that it would be cool for me to get these shoes because I have a gold medal.

"Now I have three gold medals and I was given these shoes.

"I was told, 'here they are, take them, because you deserve them'."

Alexander Bolshunov wore gold ski shoes to mark the end of his successful Games ©Getty Images
Alexander Bolshunov wore gold ski shoes to mark the end of his successful Games ©Getty Images

Bolshunov has since been confirmed as the ROC flagbearer for tomorrow's Closing Ceremony.

The ROC celebrated a one-two in the event, with Ivan Yakimushkin ending as the runner-up.

Yakimushkin finished 5.5 seconds behind the winner to claim the silver medal.

Norway’s Simen Hegstad Krueger won bronze in 1:11:39.7, having competed in only one race at the Games.

Krueger had been forced out of earlier competitions due to a positive COVID-19 test last month, which forced him to train in a hotel room.

The decision to reduce the length of the race due to weather conditions was criticised by some, with Britain’s Andrew Musgrave calling the move "ridiculous."