Classy Kalla claims first Swedish gold

AFP/The Local
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Classy Kalla claims first Swedish gold

Olympic debutante Charlotte Kalla won the women's 10km freestyle in Vancouver on Monday to claim Sweden's first gold medal at the 2010 games.


The 22-year-old from Tärendö in the far north of Sweden stormed into an early lead which she never relinquished, seeing off her closest challengers Kristina Smigun-Vaehi of Estonia and Marit Bjoergen of Norway.

Kalla's fellow Swede Anna Haag was just a whisker away from a bronze medal at Whistler Olympic Park, crossing the line just five seconds behind Bjoergen in the cross-country skiing event.

Kalla, who claimed a bronze in the relay at the world championships last year, captured her first Olympic medal with a winning time of 24 mins 58.4secs.

"It feels crazy right now, I can't believe I am a gold medallist," said Kalla. "It felt good the whole race, I just tried to focus on my plan and be patient. It feels great."

Estonia's Kristina Smigun-Vaehi, who won gold in the classical four years ago, claimed second having set the early pace with a time of 25 minutes 05.0sec before Kalla shaved six seconds off her time.

"I am very happy," she said. "I wanted gold, of course, but I am very happy.

"I didn't train as hard as I did for Torino in 2006, I just concentrated on the Olympics and that was it."

Norway's Marit Bjoergen, who was bidding for her first gold after silver medals at Salt Lake City in 2002 and Turin in 2006, had to settle for bronze as she finished 15.9sec behind.

"I was a bit nervous before the race and I didn't feel so good in the beginning," said Bjoergen.

"This is very good for me, it has been a long time since I was on the podium."

The biggest surprise of the day was the performance of World Cup leader Justyna Kowalczyk, who finished a full 21.7sec off Kalla's pace and ended up in fifth place.

"The race was quite OK, but this course is not for me," said Poland's Kowalczyk.


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