Scott Patterson of Anchorage skis to 11th place in 50K race at Olympics

Move over, Bill Koch.

In the final men's cross-country race of the Winter Olympics, Scott Patterson of Anchorage gave the U.S men's team its best finish at the Pyeongchang Games by grabbing 11th place in the 50-kilometer classic race Saturday.

But it wasn't just the best individual performance by an American man at these Olympics. It was the best 50K performance by an American man at any Olympics, topping the 13th-place showings registered by Koch — a giant in the sport of cross-country — at the 1976 and 1980 Winter Games.

The effort capped a strong Olympics for Patterson, 26, who grew up skiing for the Alaska Winter Stars, was a three-time high school Skimeister for South High and is a member of Alaska Pacific University's nordic ski team.

Patterson got better as the mass-start race got longer, going from 34th place at the 5K mark to 18th place at the 30K mark to 14th at the 40K mark.

His time of 2 hours, 13 minutes, 14.2 seconds left him less than 16 seconds out of the top 10 and a little more than two minutes away from the bronze medal. He was well off the winning pace set by Finland's Iivo Niskanen, who took the gold in 2:08:22.2.

"I had a great race," Patterson said in a race report by U.S. Ski & Snowboard. "It was exciting, and for that last 5K people were starting to dangle in front of me. It was really fun picking off some of the big names, I really wanted another couple of Ks to get into the top 10, but still, 11th is awesome for a result."


The other medals went to a pair of skiers from Russia — Alexander Bolshunov, who was 18.7 seconds behind Niskanen in the mass-start race, and Andrey Lorkov, who was 2:37.5 back.

[Patterson crushes uphill to cruise to Mount Marathon victory]

Patterson has been America's best male skier in Pyeongchang. He was the top U.S. finisher in all three of his races — in his Olympic debut he placed 18th in the 30K skiathlon, and then finished 21st in the 20K freestyle.

Colorado's Noah Hoffman was the second U.S. skier Saturday, finishing more than 10 minutes behind Niskanen in 33rd place. Tyler Kornfield of Anchorage was more than 16 minutes back in 48th place.

Kornfield's best event is the sprint, but the U.S. men's team is loaded with sprinters, so he has raced longer distances at the Olympics. He finished 73rd in the 20K freestyle — his Olympic debut — and Saturday's result represented a nice improvement.

"The first two laps were a little rough for me," Kornfield said. "At the first ski exchange my new skis were great, and I started to pick people off.

"You have to put yourself in position to do well and ignore how your body feels. I did that for the first 5K and then when you go off the back like I did, you need to compose yourself and ski your own race."

Beth Bragg

Beth Bragg wrote about sports and other topics for the ADN for more than 35 years, much of it as sports editor. She retired in October 2021. She's contributing coverage of Alaskans involved in the 2022 Winter Olympics.