Pellegrino makes history in world cross-country ski sprint

February 23, 2017

LAHTI, Finland (AP) Italian skier Federico Pellegrino became the first man from outside Scandinavia to win a major championship title in freestyle cross-country sprint on Thursday.

Pellegrino won by 0.15 seconds from Sergei Ustyugov of Russia, sparking raucous celebrations with his Italian team colleagues.

The 20-year-old Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo of Norway was in contention to become the youngest ever men's cross-country world champion but had to settle for third, 0.44 seconds behind Pellegrino.

Norway's Maiken Caspersen Falla won the women's freestyle sprint, and two U.S. skiers made the podium.

Falla sped from the rest in the middle part of the course to beat Jessica Diggins by 1.66 seconds and Kikkan Randall by 3.76 seconds.

''The conditions, they are soft but that's the way I like it. My tactics and everything just worked out today,'' Falla said. ''Oh, this is just so big.''

Several of the pre-race favorites failed to reach the final, with 15-time world champion Marit Bjoergen eliminated in the quarterfinals, and World Cup standings leader Heidi Weng narrowly missing out in the semifinals.

Swedish sprint specialist Stina Nilsson was looking for her first career world gold until she slipped on the final bend of her semifinal, bringing down Russia's Nataliya Matveyeva.