Canada's Kershaw wins Tour de Ski sprint in Italy
Canada's Devon Kershaw finally realized his dream of a World Cup victory.
The cross-country skier from Sudbury, Ont., raced to gold Wednesday by edging Dario Cologna of Switzerland in a 1.3-kilometre sprint.
Kershaw, who has competed on the sport's biggest stage for nearly a decade, finished a slim 0.1 seconds ahead of Cologna.
"I'm thrilled, I'm more than thrilled," Kershaw said. "I absolutely cannot believe it. Justin [Wadsworth, Canada's head coach] kept telling me all year to be patient and the win would come. I wanted to believe him and I just kept staying with the plan. This is just unreal."
Petter Northug of Norway was 1.2 seconds back in third place.
Kershaw's victory came on the heels of a pair of World Cup silver medals he captured last Saturday and Sunday. His three podium performances have doubled his career medal haul.
"Today everything came together, and I could take my very first victory," said Kershaw.
His victory makes the 28-year-old only the third Canadian to win a men's World Cup cross-country ski race. Pierre Harvey won two World Cup races in 1987 and '88 and Ivan Babikov, who didn't qualify for Wednesday's heats, won the final stage of the Tour de Ski in 2009.
Harvey's son Alex, from St-Ferreol-les-Neiges, Que., was 14th on Wednesday.
Kershaw tucked into fifth spot in the final and made his move on the biggest climb of the track where he took the lead and opened a 10-metre gap on the field. Kershaw held off a surging Cologna down the final stretch to the finish.
Cologna retained a 42.8-second lead over Kershaw through five of eight stages of the gruelling 10-day Tour de Ski.
"Cologna keeps medalling every single day, so it is quite hard to beat him," Kershaw said. "I'm just trying to focus and recover well. I'm absolutely nervous about [Thursday]. It's a really difficult stage, but I hope to be able to fall asleep tonight."
Thursday's Stage 6 is a 35-kilometre point-to-point cross-country skate race.
Five of Kershaw's six career medals have come on the Tour, including a bronze in the sprint race in 2006 and bronze in the 15-kilometre classic race in 2009. He won his first World Cup medal days after the 2006 Winter Olympics.
Petra Majdic of Slovenia won the women's race Wednesday in a photo finish ahead of Italy's Arianna Follis, who had the same time.
Majdic moved up from fourth to second overall, 39.1 seconds behind leader Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland, who was knocked out in the first round of the sprints.
The women will complete a 15-kilometre race Thursday from Cortina d'Ampezzo to Dobbiaco. The Tour concludes this weekend in Val di Fiemme, finishing with a climb up Mount Cermis on Sunday.