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Norway clinch first gold medal of Beijing Winter Olympics

Therese Johaug finished ahead of Russia's Natalia Nepryaeva and Austria's Teresa Stadlober to win the women's skiathlon and the first gold medal at Beijing 2022.

Norway clinch first gold medal of Beijing Winter Olympics

Norway claimed the first gold medal of the 2022 Winter Games on Saturday as the politics dominating the Beijing Olympics began to make room for the snowy feats of the world's best athletes. Therese Johaug powered to victory in the women's skiathlon race, the first gold of the Games and the first individual Olympic gold of her glittering career.

Natalia Nepryaeva representing the Russian Olympic Committee, took silver while Austria's Teresa Stadlober picked up the bronze medal, but the day belonged to Johaug as she obliterated the field after the switch from classic style to freestyle, eventually winning by a margin of 30.2 seconds.

Contested in bitter cold and blustery winds, the race got off to a chaotic start as Coralie Bentz of France and Finland's Anne Kyllonen went crashing to the snow after an early clash while American Rosie Brennan was making the early going. Nepryaeva and the Nordic nations were soon to the fore as the pack spread out and about a dozen racers started to open up a gap, taking turns to lead.

Johaug gradually took control and finished the first lap in front before the Finnish pairing of Krista Parmakoski and Kerttu Niskanen took over for a gruelling uphill climb. That uphill stretch cut the leading group to eight and their ranks were further thinned by half as the switch to freestyle skis was made with Johaug holding a slender lead and Niskanen, Parmakoski and Nilsson hot on her heels.

Their challenge was short-lived after the switch as Johaug leveraged her raw freestyle power to cruise away from her rivals, opening up a gap of 26 seconds at the 10 km mark. She never let up, despite a frenetic spurt by Nepryaeva, Stadlober, Finland's Kerttu Niskanen and Swede Frida Karlsson, gliding across the line with her arms aloft and crying freezing tears of joy in the knowledge that the coveted individual gold was finally in her grasp.