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17 Feb, 2010 22:50

Russia claims first gold in Vancouver!

Russia's Nikita Kryukov came out on top of a desperate sprint finish to overcome compatriot Aleksandr Panzhinsky and win the men's cross country 1.6 kilometer classic sprint at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

20-year-old Panzhinskiy had dominated the early rounds of the competition, setting the fastest time in qualifying, and then leaving opponents behind in the quarter- and semi-finals. 24-year old Kryukov, who stands fourth in this season's World Cup sprint rankings, was only third in his semifinal race and passed through to the final as a lucky loser.

Apart from the Russian duo, three Norwegian masters – Ola Vigen Hattestad, Petter Northug and Oeystein Pettersen – were regarded as the main favorites. However, the Russian grabbed the lead early in the final and never let the Scandinavians approach them.

The race was decided in the last 200 meters, where Kryukov had a bit more luck than his young teammate. The duo claimed Russia’s first gold and silver medals in Vancouver.

Earlier, in the women’s event, Marit Bjørgen of Norway claimed gold, Pole Justyna Kowalczyk was second and Slovenian Petra Majdic finished third despite being injured.