Finnish cross-country skier wins gold, watches rest of race and waits to embrace last-place finisher

Finland's Iivo Niskanen displayed the ultimate act of sportsmanship at the 2022 Beijing Olympics.

Niskanen won a gold medal, his third, in the men's cross-country skiing 15km classic on Friday. The exhausted skier collapsed across the finish line with a time of 37:54.80, but instead of going off to celebrate or recover, he patiently waited for every one of the 94 competitors behind him to complete the race.

Russia's Alexander Bolshunov secured silver 23.2 seconds later and Norway's Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo earned bronze after finishing 37.5 seconds behind Niskanen.

Colombia’s Carlos Andres Quintana crossed the finish line last, nearly 20 minutes behind Niskanen and received a warm embrace from the Olympic gold medalist. The act perfectly highlighted the Olympic spirit and the humanity among athletes.

"You need to respect each other as an athlete," Niskanen, 30, said after the race.

Colombia's Carlos Andres Quintana is embraced by Gold medalist Iivo Niskanen of Team Finland after finishing during the Men's Cross-Country Skiing 15km Classic on Day 7 of  Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics at The National Cross-Country Skiing Centre on February 11, 2022 in Zhangjiakou, China.
Colombia's Carlos Andres Quintana is embraced by Gold medalist Iivo Niskanen of Team Finland after finishing during the Men's Cross-Country Skiing 15km Classic on Day 7 of Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics at The National Cross-Country Skiing Centre on February 11, 2022 in Zhangjiakou, China.

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Niskanen continued: "Everyone has done lots of work to be here and it means a lot to take him across the finish line. You need that kind of respect in these Olympic Games. Smaller countries don't have as much budget as the best nations."

Quintana is one of three athletes representing Colombia at the Beijing Winter Olympics. The 36-year-old, who served as one of his country's flagbearers during the opening ceremony, started cross-country skiing at age 33 to achieve his Olympic dream, according to Olympics.com.

Quintana called Niskanen "a wonderful human being" on Instagram, adding that he "would never forget this moment... thank you friend."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Cross-country skier shows sportsmanship by waiting for final finisher