Norwegian cross-country star Petter Northug claimed his first gold medal of the Nordic world championships in the 15-kilometre individual freestyle at Val di Fiemme, Italy on Wednesday.

An impressive race from Northug saw him beat Johan Olsson of Sweden by 11.8 seconds, finishing in 34 minutes, 37.1 seconds. Tord Asle Gjerdalen was third, 22.3 seconds behind his teammate, Northug.

There was another gap before the rest of the field came in, led by Ivan Babikov of Canmore, Alta., who finished fourth in a time of 35:30.7.

Babikov, 32, pronounced himself pleased with the effort, especially given the fact he's been under the weather in Italy. 

"I have not been feeling great last week, and was pretty down after [last week's] pursuit," said Babikov, in a release sent out by Canadian officials. "To get my body and legs back is really good. Our team worked amazingly well today. My skis were awesome, and it was really important for my confidence to have this race today."

The winner Northug attacked from the start and was more than 20 seconds ahead of Olsson after 9.4 kilometres. He started to struggle and lost 10 seconds within the next 2 kilometres.

However, he maintained his pace over the final section and collapsed over the line, where and lay for several minutes before being helped up.

Olympic champion Dario Cologna, who won Saturday's skiathlon, finished eighth, 1:21.1 behind Northug.

With files from