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16 Feb 2006
Turin 2006 , Estonia , IOC News , Cross Country Skiing

Šmigun stands firm in combined pursuit chase

Having made her Olympic debut at the age of 16, Kristina Šmigun was something of a veteran by the time of the Turin Games. She was now 28 years old and competing in her fourth Games – but was still to win her first medal. That, though, was to change.

She was not an outsider. In 2003, Šmigun had won the world championship and she was one of the favourites to win the combined pursuit. It had been lengthened since Salt Lake City, with both the classical and the freestyle pursuit elements raised from 5km to 7.5km and a mass start instead of intervals.

Yulia Chepalova, of Russia, and the Norwegian Mariot Bjørgen had won gold and silver at the world championships the previous year, but the leader after the classical section was Slovenia's Petra Majdič with Šmigun in second. The battle had begun.

Majdič faded in the freestyle pursuit but Šmigun kept going strong. Behind her was the Czech skier Kateřina Neumannová, and the pair continued their contest all the way through the freestyle section, Šmigun just ahead.

There was a brief, spectacular charge by the defending champion Beckie Scott, who forced herself to the front but then faded back to finish sixth. At the line, Neumannová made a final push but couldn't get past – it was gold, and a first Olympic medal, for Šmigun.

At home in Estonia, there was jubilation. But more was to come in the 10km. Once again, Bjørgen was expected to do well and so was Neumannová. And once again, it was Šmigun who confounded the predictions.

This time she assumed the lead after the Canadian Sara Renner fell away after the final checkpoint. By contrast Šmigun was in the form of her life, moving ever further from the pack over the final kilometre to win by more than 20 seconds and seal the second gold medal of her Games.

She competed in her fifth Olympic Games in Vancouver in 2010, winning a silver medal in the 10km, before retiring from the sport at the age of 32.

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