Road To The Olympic Games


Marit Bjoergen wins 12th world X-country title

Marit Bjoergen secured her 12th world title on Saturday in Val di Fiemme, Italy by beating Olympic champion Justyna Kowalczyk in a sprint finish to win the 30-kilometre classical event at the Nordic skiing world championships.

Tops Olympic champion Kowalczyk in a sprint finish in Italy

From right, Marit Bjoergen of Norway, Therese Johaug, of Norway, and Justyna Kowalczyk, of Poland, compete at the Nordic Ski World Championships in Val di Fiemme, Italy on Saturday. (Giovanni Auletta/Associated Press)

Marit Bjoergen and Jason Lamy Chappuis continued to dominate the Nordic world championships, respectively winning their fourth and third gold medals on Saturday.

Bjoergen beat Olympic champion Justyna Kowalczyk in a sprint finish to win the 30-kilometre classical event and secure her 12th world title.

The cross-country great, who won three Olympic golds in Vancouver, sped past Kowalczyk with 200 metres to go to win by 3.7 seconds. Teammate Therese Johaug, who won the 10K freestyle on Tuesday, was third, 8.7 seconds behind.

Lamy Chappuis helped France to another team victory in the Nordic combined, becoming the first man to win three golds in the discipline in a single world championships.

He and Sebastien Lacroix beat the Austrian team of Wilhelm Denifl and Bernhard Gruber by 16.6 seconds. Germany's Eric Frenzel edged out Japan's Akito Watabe by 0.6 seconds for bronze as a late fall by Tino Edelmann cost the German team dearly.

Austria won its fifth successive ski jump team title on the large hill to take its first gold medal of these worlds.

Norway tops the medal table with 19, including eight golds. France has four medals — all of which have been won with the help of Lamy Chappuis.

The Olympic champion came back from 11th to win the individual normal hill and also took gold in the team event, as well as bronze in the individual large hill.

"It hasn't sunk in yet," he told The Associated Press. "I couldn't have dreamt it! It's been a really perfect two weeks. I've given everything. The best has to be the relay because there were four of us celebrating together and it was really incredible to finish so close in front of [Magnus] Moan."

Lamy Chappuis and Lacroix started fourth in the 2x7.5-kilometre sprint, 43 seconds behind Edelmann and Frenzel after the ski jump on the large hill.

Frenzel, who dominated to win the individual event on Thursday, again outdistanced his rivals with a jump of 127 metres, picking up 136.3 points as Germany scored a total of 264.3 and started the sprint 12 seconds ahead of the Japanese team of Watabe and Taihei Kato.

Germany was caught just before the halfway stage by France, Austria and Japan.

Japan dropped off two laps later, and Edelmann's fall at the start of the penultimate lap left the race between France and Austria.

Earlier, Bjoergen won her first major title in a 30K-race in eight years.

"It makes the win even more special," Bjoergen said. "I lost in Vancouver, so this year I really wanted the gold in the 30K. My teammates knew this was one of my biggest goals this season so they're really happy for me."

Bjoergen, Kowalczyk and Johaug were the favourites and they pulled away early in a group of five. The eventual medallists were left alone with more than a third of the race to go.

Bjoergen lost time when she struggled with a ski change, but she swiftly caught up to her rivals.

Fully aware of Bjoergen's sprinting skills, Kowalczyk tried to attack on the penultimate hill, but her rivals increased their pace, too.

Kowalczyk and Bjoergen pulled clear on the final climb to battle out for gold.

In the ski jump, Wolfgang Loitzl, Manuel Fettner, Thomas Morgenstern and Gregor Schlierenzauer racked up a total of 1,135.9 points to beat the German team of Andreas Wank, Severin Freund, Michael Neumayer and Richard Freitag by 14.1 points.

The Polish team of Maciej Kot, Piotr Zyla, Dawid Kubacki and Kamil Stoch was 0.8 further back.

Norway looked to have won silver but was demoted to fourth when it was realized the judges had mistakenly awarded Anders Bardal points for starting from a lower gate than he did on his first jump.

Fettner, the most unheralded of the four Austrians, ended up playing a huge part in the victory. He lost a ski as he landed on his second jump but somehow managed to stay upright to avoid a penalty.

"Something went wrong with the binding, I don't know if it broke but it went off," Fettner said. "I realized when I was landing, but I just kept holding on as I realized it counted for so much, would have been a really big penalty.

"I don't know how I did it [stayed upright]."

Wank had the longest jump of 135.5 metres.

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