Vylegzhanin, Johaug win skiathlon gold at Nordic ski worlds
FALUN, Sweden (AP) After six silver medals at major events, Maxim Vylegzhanin had enough of finishing second.
The Russian cross-country skier finally got his first gold on Saturday by outsprinting Olympic champion Dario Cologna of Switzerland to win the men’s 30-kilometer skiathlon at the Nordic skiing world championships.
”I simply don’t have the words to describe how happy I am over this gold medal,” said Vylegzhanin, who earned three silvers at the Sochi Olympics last year and had three runner-up finishes from previous worlds. ”It has been a really long journey here.”
Cologna, the defending world champion in skiathlon, looked like he would win his third straight title in the event when he attacked on the toughest uphill climb on the course with a couple of kilometers to go. But Vylegzhanin was one of only two skiers who could keep up with the Swiss star, and then had the strongest sprint in the end.
”I thought I would try everything in the (uphill section),” Cologna said. ”It was the right tactic, but in the end I was a little bit tired, and Maxim was a little bit stronger.”
Alex Harvey of Canada beat Didrik Toenseth of Norway in a sprint for the bronze, clinching his second medal of the championships after taking silver in the individual sprint. Harvey won gold in the team sprint at the 2011 worlds and bronze in the individual sprint in 2013, but this was his first championship medal in a long-distance event.
”It’s crazy,” Harvey said. ”I only had two medals in my life at world championships, and now I have two in three days.”
While Norway was surprisingly left without a medal in the men’s race, it finished the day with two more gold medals.
Therese Johaug won the women’s 15K skiathlon, while Rune Velta surprisingly took gold in the men’s normal hill ski jump.
Johaug pulled away from teammate Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen and Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla on the last of four laps for her fifth career world title.
”It’s an incredible feeling,” Johaug said. ”This is what I’ve trained for all year.”
Jacobsen beat Kalla in a tight sprint for the silver medal, finishing 5.7 seconds behind Johaug. Kalla was 0.3 seconds further back for the bronze.
For Jacobsen, it was her first individual championship medal since winning sprint gold at the 2007 worlds. It also came a year after her brother died on the eve of the Sochi Olympic skiathlon, which led the Norwegian women’s team to wear black armbands in that event – drawing a rebuke from the International Olympic Committee.
”This feels like winning for me,” Jacobsen said. ”My biggest goal for me today was to create a new and positive memory of being at a championship.”
Olympic and defending world champion Marit Bjoergen finished only sixth.
Velta had never even won a World Cup, but put down two jumps of 95.5 meters to take gold by just 0.4 points ahead of Severin Freund of Germany.
”I didn’t expect it to go so well,” Velta said. ”I had a really good trial run and thought then that today maybe something special can happen.”
Velta led after the first round, and did just enough in the second to hold off Freund, who was third after the opening round but had the longest jump of the day with 96 meters in the second.
Stefan Kraft of Austria took bronze with 248.3 points. World Cup leader Peter Prevc of Slovenia was only 13th.
Sunday’s program includes cross-country team sprints, a mixed team ski jump, and the Nordic combined team event.