Hattestad sees off Swedish rivals to capture gold in cross-country sprint
Norway's Ola Vigen Hattestad seized his chance to take Olympic gold in the men's cross country freestyle sprint at the Laura Cross Country Ski Centre.
Inspired by the victory of his compatriot Maiken Caspersen Falla in the women’s sprint, just minutes earlier, Hattestad completed the 1.8km course in a winning time of 3 minutes 38.39 seconds, 1.22 seconds ahead of second-placed Teodor Petersen of Sweden.
The pair had moved into a clear lead after three of the six finalists Anders Gloeersen (NOR), Marcus Hellner (SWE) and Sergey Ustiugov (RUS) did not finish after a crash going round a steep right-hand bend. Petersen’s compatriot Emil Joensson came in third to claim the bronze.
A total of 87 athletes had started the day’s competition, which began with a qualification round, with the field then whittled down to 30 competitors, who contested five quarter finals.
The fastest two from each quarter final were joined by two “lucky losers” in the semi-finals, with six from 12 making it through to the afternoon’s final.
Norwegian athletes had always been expected to have a major say in the destination of the medals in the cross-country events.
However, as in the women’s sprint, where hot favourite Marjit Bjorgen failed to make the final, Norway’s leading male sprint specialist Petter Northrug, endured a disappointing day, exiting at the semi-final stage.
It was instead left to their compatriots Hattestad, Falla and Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg (who took silver in the women’s race) to take centre stage, and write Norway’s cross country team into the history books, as they took their overall medal tally in Olympic cross-country events to 102.