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Nordic skiing: Johaug, Bolshunov claim skiathlon golds as Hansen makes history


OBERSTDORF, Germany (Reuters) - Norway's Gyda Westvold Hansen made history as she became the first female world champion in the Nordic combined event at the FIS Nordic Ski World Championships on Saturday, hours after her cousin Therese Johaug won gold in the 15km skiathlon.

It was nearly a clean sweep of gold medals for Norway on the day, but Russia's Alexander Bolshunov snagged the gold in the men's 30km skiathlon race ahead of the Norwegian pairing of Simen Hegstad Krueger and Hans Christer Holund to spoil the party.

Winning the ski race by a margin of 13.8 seconds, Hansen topped an all-Norwegian podium as the Nordic combined event for women was held for the first time, with sisters Mari and Marte Leinan Lund coming second and third respectively.

Hansen's cousin Johaug set the tone for the day earlier, bouncing back from an early fall to crush the field and claim gold in the women's skiathlon.

Johaug crashed to the snow after colliding with Swede Frida Karlsson, who broke a ski pole in the clash, towards the end of the first of four laps, and her fellow Swede Ebba Andersson briefly cruised into the lead as the second lap began.

However, Johaug reeled her in with a powerful performance on the uphill parts of the course and came out of the switch from classic to freestyle skis at the halfway point with a lead of 4.3 seconds over Andersson.

The 32-year-old wasted no time increasing the gap, eventually cruising to a dominant victory by a margin of 30 seconds to claim her 11th World Championship cross-country gold, while Karlsson held off Andersson in a sprint finish to take the silver.

After a tight opening 15km in the classic style leg of the men's race, the switch to freestyle saw world number one Bolshunov lead a six-man breakaway group of himself and five Norwegians into the final lap.

Holund and Krueger mounted a brave challenge on the longest climb on the course, with Holund taking a slim lead to set up a frenetic finish.

Four-time silver medallist Bolshunov dug deep and swooped to close the gap late on, overtaking Holund on the bend into the last uphill stretch and blazing away from the two Norwegians to claim his first World Championship gold medal.

(Reporting by Philip O'Connor in Stockholm; Editing by Hugh Lawson; [email protected])

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