Marit Bjoergen of Norway powered to a convincing win in the women's cross-country sprint Thursday in the first final at the nordic world championships.
The three-time Olympic champion led from start to finish to cross the line in three minutes 3.9 seconds in the 1.3-kilometre race.
"This was my best sprint of the season," Bjoergen said.
Reigning world champion Arianna Follis of Italy trailed the Norwegian by 0.2 seconds. Petra Majdic of Slovenia was third, 0.5 seconds back.
Chandra Crawford of Canmore, Alta., and Perianne Jones of Almonte, Ont., both failed to advance past the quarter-finals.
Crawford appeared to be heading into the semifinals until nearly crashing with 300 metres to go after Poland's Justyna Kowalczyk stepped on her pole.
Kikkan Randall of the United States, who leads the World Cup sprint standings, had her gold medal hopes dashed when she fell in her quarter-final.
The 30-year-old Bjoergen has raced impeccably all season, winning nine of her 13 World Cup races. However, while the Norwegian is expected to dominate all three distance events, sprint events are not normally her strongest suit.
Bjoergen said she was looking forward to the rest of the worlds but was not yet sure whether she would compete in the team event.
"It was amazing with all the people around the track today," Bjoergen said. "It was amazing, all that I had dreamed of."
Follis said she was delighted to have reached the final after recovering from a fall in qualifying.
"When I fell I thought it was finished for me," she said. "I tried to go better and better and was lucky enough to make it the final."
Follis said Bjoergen would be tough to beat in the rest of the worlds, claiming only Kowalczyk stood a chance of stopping the Norwegian from more gold medals.