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Swede claims second Vasaloppet title

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Swede claims second Vasaloppet title
11:12 CET+01:00
Sweden's Jörgen Brink emerged from a pack of more than 14,000 skiers to win the 87th annual Vasaloppet cross-country ski race on Sunday.

Brink, who also won the event last year, surged past a handfull of other skiers who had emerged as a lead pack to cross the finish line just Czech skier Stanislav Rezac.

Fellow Swede Jerry Ahrlin finished third, while Norwegian Anders Aukland came in fourth place.

"To win the Vasaloppet....it's something I've dreamt about. And to do it two times...that's awesome," Brink told Svergies Television (SVT) following the race.

Brink's winning time of 3 hours, 51 minutes was 13 minutes behind the Vasaloppet record set in 1998.

Earlier on Sunday morning, more than 14,000 skiers pushed their way across the starting line in the signature event of a week of ski competitions involving nearly 60,000 people.

More than 15,800 skiers had registered to compete in the grueling 90-kilometere race, which was first run in 1922 between Sälen and Mora in central Sweden.

"The weather is just fine, with the wind blowing in the right direction," Vasaloppet spokesperson Per Strid told the Expressen newspaper.

According to Svergies Television (SVT), however, only 14,284 racers passed the starting line at Bergabyn in Sälen.

Inspired by a now-mythical journey by Sweden's future king Gustav Vasa, who was locked in fierce struggle against invading Danes in 1521, the event has grown into one of Sweden's most-watched sporting events.

Before the race Ahrlin, one of the favourites to win, joked about the fierce rivalry between Sweden and Norway, which has been brought into sharp relief at the recent Nordic skiing World Championships in Olso.

"I have a Norwegian girlfriend too. I might as well consider myself as half-Norwegian," Ahrlin told the TT news agency.

Ahrlin came up short again this year, but added to a string of strong Vasaloppet finishes.

He finished fourth in the Vasaloppet in 2005, before posting second-place finishes in both 2006 and 2007, and a third-place finish in 2008 behind the Aukland brothers of Norway.

In addition to keeping many Swedes glued to their television sets on Sunday, the Vasaloppet is also a boon to local businesses, bringing in an estimated 140 million kronor ($22 million), according to Sveriges Radio (SR).

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