Bjoergen wins record 15th world cross-country ski title

LAHTI, Finland (AP) Marit Bjoergen won a record 15th world championship gold medal in cross-country skiing on Saturday with victory in a 15-kilometer skiathlon.

The Norwegian broke away with Finland's Krista Parmakoski before dominating the final sprint to win by 4.8 seconds. Charlotte Kalla of Sweden was third, 32 seconds behind Bjoergen.

The 36-year-old Bjoergen has more gold medals than any other cross-country skier - male or female - in world championship history, having previously shared the record of 14 gold medals with retired Russian Yelena Valbe. Bjoergen is a specialist at the skiathlon, which is raced half in classic style and half in freestyle.

Bjoergen has now won three world championship skiathlons and five of the last six at major championships, including two Olympic golds, and is targeting next year's Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

''I look toward the games,'' she told Norwegian news agency NTB.

Bjoergen returned to competition this winter from a break to have her first child. Bjoergen's partner Fred Borre Lundberg told NTB he calmed her nerves ahead of Saturday's race by sending her a photo of their baby son and the message: ''It will go fine, mama.''

Bjoergen's return to competition this season came at a difficult time for Norwegian skiing, which saw two of its stars, Martin Johnsrud Sundby and Therese Johaug, given bans last year for breaches of anti-doping rules.

Bjoergen told Norwegian TV channel NRK that she was dedicating her win on Saturday to Johaug, who is serving a 13-month ban after testing positive for clostebol, a steroid she said was in a lotion given to her by the team doctor to treat sunburn during high-altitude training in Italy in August.

Russian athlete Anna Medvedeva finished with her bib covered in blood from a deep gash on her face. Russian team coach Danil Akimov told state news agency Tass that Medvedeva needed stitches for the wound, which appeared to be the result of being struck by a ski pole in a collision near the start.

Russia's Sergei Ustyugov won the men's 30K skiathlon when his closest rival, Sundby, slipped on a climb on the final lap.

Sundby was trying to pull away from Ustyugov when he lost traction and fell, leaving the Russian clear to win by 6.7 seconds. Another Norwegian, Finn Hagen Krogh, won a scramble for third place, crossing the line 31.8 seconds off the winner as four Norwegian men made the top six.

The win will be a morale-booster for the Russian ski team, which has six of its athletes suspended on suspicion of doping. They were implicated in a report published by World Anti-Doping Agency investigator Richard McLaren in December alleging Russian officials covered up drug use over several years. Those suspended include Maxim Vylegzhanin, who won the skiathlon at the last world championships in 2015.

Separately, Sundby served a two-month ban last year for exceeding the permitted dose of asthma medication.

Austria's Stefan Kraft took gold in the men's normal hill ski jump competition with a total score of 270.8 points as his perfect technique on both jumps earned the two best scores of the day from judges.

It was the first gold medal at a major championships for Kraft, who finished third in the same event at the 2015 world championships.

''Unbelievable,'' Kraft said. ''I was really nervous, but I'm so happy. World champion now.''

Germany's Andreas Wellinger and Markus Eisenbichler took second and third with 268.7 and 263.6 points respectively. Eisenbichler was down in sixth after the first round but produced the biggest jump of the night at 100.5 meters to soar onto the podium.

Double Olympic champion Kamil Stoch of Poland was widely considered the favorite for gold but was knocked into fourth by Eisenbichler in the final round.

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