Winter Olympics - Swede Kalla wins 10k free gold

Tue, 16 Feb 00:51:00 2010

Sweden's Charlotte Kalla won the first cross country skiing gold medal of the Vancouver Winter Games with a rousing victory in the women's 10km freestyle.

Kalla - 0

The 22-year-old Kalla finished the two-circuit course in 24 minutes 58.4 seconds, beating Estonian veteran Kristina Smigun by 6.6 seconds at Whistler Olympic Park.

Norway's Marit Bjoergen, a renowned sprinter who had been looking for her first Olympic gold medal after twice winning silver, had to settle for the bronze.

World Cup leader Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland, a double gold medallist at last year's world championships in Liberec, Czech Republic, came home in fifth.

"It feels crazy right now," a beaming Kalla said after throwing her arms into the air in celebration as she crossed the finish line in front of a packed stadium.

"I cannot believe I am a gold medallist. I felt good the whole race. I just tried to focus on my plan and be patient. It was fantastic."

Kalla had sealed victory in the same distance at a World Cup event in Canmore, Alberta earlier this month and she took control at Olympic Park with a fast opening loop of 12 minutes 30 seconds.

Smigun, who came out of retirement earlier this year at the age of 32 in a bid to taste further Games glory, finished ahead of the Swede to set the benchmark and then looked on to watch Kalla power home down the closing stretch to snatch victory.

"It was very fast," said Smigun, 17th to start. "Everybody (among the contenders) was after me so it was very difficult. I had no information.

"But I am very happy," added the Estonian who won two gold medals at the 2006 Turin Games before quitting the sport to give birth to a daughter, Victoria-Kris.

"Thank you Canada. I am blessed to have the opportunity to ski again after my baby girl."

Smigun won gold medals in Turin in the 15km pursuit and the 10km classic.

Great Britain teenager Fiona Hughes came home 68th.

"I felt I skied pretty well, I felt really strong out on the course especially on the flatter sections and I worked hard on the uphill parts," she said.

"I was just a bit annoyed that I got caught behind a girl coming on the last corner down into the stadium and tripped over her skis."

Factbox on Kalla:

Age: 22

Place of birth: Tarendo, Sweden

No previous Olympic results:

Career achievements:

Bronze medallist, 2009 World Championships, 4x5km relay

Background: Kalla won the 2007/08 Tour de Ski. Her partner, Tiio Soderhielm is also a cross-country skier. Before her Vancouver win Kalla had sealed victory in the same distance at a World Cup event in Canmore, Alberta earlier in February.

Follow the Winter Olympics 24/7 on British Eurosport (Sky 410 / Virgin 521) and Eurosport HD (Sky 412). British Eurosport channels are streamed online via the Eurosport Player.

Reuters

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