Norway’s Therese Johaug wins first Beijing Games gold medal in women’s skiathlon

Therese Johaug powered to victory to claim gold for Norway in the women’s skiathlon race at the Beijing Olympics on Saturday, the first gold of the Games and the first individual Olympic gold of her brilliant career.

Natalia Nepryaeva, representing the Russian Olympic Committee, won silver while Austria’s Teresa Stadlober took bronze. But the day belonged to Johaug as she annihilated the peloton after the switch from classic to freestyle, eventually winning by a margin of 30.2 seconds.

Contested in freezing cold and high winds, the race got off to a chaotic start as France’s Coralie Bentz and Finland’s Anne Kyllonen crashed in the snow.

Nepryaeva and the Nordic nations quickly took over as the peloton spread out and a dozen riders began to pull away, taking turns to take the lead.

Johaug gradually took control and finished the opening lap in the lead before Finnish duo Krista Parmakoski and Kerttu Niskanen took over for a grueling climb.

This uphill stretch reduced the lead group to eight and their ranks were further halved when the switch to freestyle skis was made with Johaug holding a slim lead and Niskanen, Parmakoski and Nilsson hot on his heels.

Their challenge was short-lived after the switch as Johaug used her raw freestyle power to pull away from her rivals, opening a 26-second gap at the 10km mark.

She never let go, despite a frantic push from Nepryaeva, Stadlober, Niskanen and Sweden’s Frida Karlsson, sliding across the line with her arms uplifted and crying icy tears of joy knowing that the coveted individual gold was finally here. in his reach.

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