Norway's Klaebo, Sweden's Sundling win sprint golds

Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo (R) of Team Norway celebrates winning the Gold medal and Federico Pellegrino of Team Italy celebrates winning the Silver medal as they cross the finish line during the Men's Cross-Country Sprint Free Final

Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo (R) of Team Norway celebrates winning the Gold medal and Federico Pellegrino of Team Italy celebrates winning the Silver medal as they cross the finish line during the Men's Cross-Country Sprint Free Final

Norway’s Johannes Klaebo and Sweden’s Jonna Sundling took home the gold medals in electrifying Olympic sprint finals under the lights at the National Cross-Country Centre on Tuesday.

Sundling won all her heats and stormed to a stunning victory in the final ahead of compatriot Maja Dahlqvist, with Jessie Diggins of the United States holding off fellow American Rosie Brennan to pick up the bronze.

Wearing bib number one, Sundling crushed everyone in her path, taking victory in the final by a margin of 2.88 seconds from Dahlqvist in a sport where athletes often lunge over the line to win by millimetres.

“It’s crazy, I probably haven’t really understood it yet,” Sundling said.

“I never felt completely sure. There were so many on the starting line who are so good. It’s high elevation and a tough course and even if it feels good, you never know until it’s over. But I handled all the races well, never exceeded my limits and could keep a high pace throughout.”

Diggins, who helped break an American cross-country medal drought going back to 1976 with her team sprint victory in 2018 alongside Kikkan Randall, dug deep again with a typically gutsy, come-from-behind performance.

“It feels amazing, it belongs to the whole team,” Diggins said. “We have come a long way as a country and it is very special to have it all come together.”

Stressful Buildup

Klaebo made the most of the absence of recently-crowned skiathlon champion Alexander Bolshunov to grab his first gold of the Games, with Italian Federico Pellegrino taking silver and Alexander Terentev bronze for the Russian Olympic Committee.

Klaebo was out for vindication after a poor performance in the skiathlon race on Sunday and he got it in the final, bursting out of the gate and holding off the early challenge of young Swede Oskar Svensson.

The rest of the six-man field could not match his power on the uphill climbs and he crossed the line 0.26 seconds ahead of Pellegrino, whose semi-final lunge had given him an unlikely berth in the final.

“It’s a special one for sure,” Klaebo said. “The last couple of weeks has been quite stressful. We had some COVID in the team and my coach is at home.

“There has been pressure for sure, trying to see if you can do it one more time. But having this amazing fight together today was special and it was a lot of fun.”

Norwegian team coach Eirik Myhr Nosum said Klaebo was unique: “He has the ability to adjust, reading the course, the track and conditions.”

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