Online Extra: U.S. wins team sprint at Nordic worlds in Italy
By DANIELLA MATAR
VAL DI FIEMME, Italy — Kikkan Randall and Jessica Diggins gave the United States its first gold medal in cross-country skiing at the Nordic world championships Sunday with a victory in the women’s team sprint.
The American duo finished 7.8 seconds ahead of defending champions Charlotte Kalla and Ida Ingemarsdotter of Sweden, which also finished second in the men’s event.
“It feels incredible,” Randall said. “This is something we’ve looked forward to for a long time. It’s my seventh world championship and I’ve had to spend a lot of time watching award ceremonies. So we’re pretty excited to do it.”
The men’s race was closer, with Alexei Petukhov and Nikita Kriukov of Russia edging Marcus Hellner and Emil Joensson by 0.4 seconds.
Olympic champion Jason Lamy Chappuis, who won the individual title Friday, led France to victory in the Nordic combined team event. He finished 0.4 seconds ahead of Norway’s Magnus Moan in a close sprint on the final straightaway. That was Norway’s only medal after it won six out of 10 at stake Saturday.
Japan won the first mixed team ski jumping title for its first gold of the championships.
In the women’s 6x1.2-kilometer sprint, Randall anchored the victory with a scorching final lap to pull away from the Swedish and Finnish teams. Finland’s Riika Sarasoja-Lilja and Krista Lahteenmaki were third, 10.9 seconds behind the Americans.
“That moment when your teammate comes running out (in the finish area) it starts to sink in that you’re world champion,” Randall said.
Norway, one of the favorites, finished fourth after Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg fell.
Randall is one of the top sprinters on the circuit, with seven individual World Cup victories to go with one win in the team event — also with Diggins in Quebec in December.
“I’m sprinting with the best sprinter in the world,” Diggins said. “I knew that if I could get her to take off in a good position she’d be able to hold it and improve upon it. So I just tried to get her in the best spot I could.”
Diggins made her break on the next-to-last leg, attacking on the steepest climb of the track. She pushed so hard she even broke a pole near the top, but her coach was on hand to rush and give her a replacement.
At the final changeover, Diggins was 1.4 seconds ahead of Kalla — and Randall then extended the lead with the fastest lap of any skier in the final.
In the men’s 6x1.5-kilometer event, a strong climb by Petukhov on his final lap gave Russia the lead at the final exchange. Kriukov, the Olympic champion who won the individual sprint Thursday, went on to victory.
Kazakhstan duo Nikolay Chebotko and Alexey Poltoranin won a photo finish for bronze, edging defending champions Canada by 0.03 seconds.
Norway surprisingly failed to qualify for the final after Paal Golberg and Petter Northug finished sixth in the semifinals.
In the Nordic combined, the French team of Francois Braud, Maxime Laheurte, Sebastien Lacroix and Lamy Chappuis started the cross-country relay 22 seconds behind Japan, which won the ski jumping.
Norway started 50 seconds behind Japan after a poor opening jump from Joergen Graabak. It would have started even further back had Haavard Klemetsen not earned 125 points — the most of the round — with his jump. Magnus Krog was the fourth member of the team.
Lamy Chappuis and Moan attacked on the next-to-last hill and were neck and neck to the end when the Frenchman lunged to cross the line ahead of Moan. The United States was third, with Bill Demong coming in 4.2 seconds behind Lamy Chappuis.
Yuki Ito, Daiki Ito, Sara Takanashi and Taku Takeuchi dominated both rounds of the mixed jump to total 1,011 points. The event features two men and two women on each team.
The Austrian team of Chiara Hoelzl, Thomas Morgenstern, Jacqueline Seifriedsberger and Gregor Schlierenzauer was second with 986.7 points. That was 1.8 points ahead of the German team of Ulrike Graessler, Richard Freitag, Carina Vogt and Severin Freund.
Sarah Hendrickson, who beat Takanashi to the women’s title Friday, had two impressive jumps, each worth more than 130 points. But the U.S. finished sixth out of 10 teams.
The-18-year-old Hendrickson earned 138.8 points — the highest of the competition — on her second jump of 104.5 meters. She was topped only by the 16-year-old Takanashi, who went 106.5 meters for 135.5 points.
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