Olsson of Sweden wins 15K freestyle race at Nordic worlds
FALUN, Sweden (AP) — Johan Olsson of Sweden took advantage of an early start number to win the men’s 15-kilometer freestyle race Wednesday for his second career cross-country skiing world championship title.
Olsson was less than half a second behind Maurice Manificat of France at the halfway stage and then gradually pulled away to beat the Frenchman by 17.8 seconds.
Olsson, who won the 50K classical race at the 2013 worlds, finished in 35 minutes, 1.6 seconds. Anders Gloeersen of Norway took bronze, 1.4 seconds behind Manificat.
It was host Sweden’s second straight gold at the worlds after Charlotte Kalla won the women’s 10K race on Tuesday.
Olsson had starting bib No. 17 in the event, which features skiers going out at 30-second intervals in a race against the clock. That proved an advantage as warm temperatures softened the snow during the race, making things harder on the later starters.
“When I can do my first (7.5K) lap before the other favorites have even started I knew things could turn out quite well,” Olsson said. “But a lot of other things had to go well, too.”
Defending champion Petter Northug of Norway, with bib No. 65, was nearly 50 seconds back at the 7.5K mark and then cruised the rest of the way, finishing 4:44 behind in 62nd place.
Olympic champion Dario Cologna of Switzerland, who went out last among the seeded skiers with bib No. 71, also lost more than a minute on the second lap, finishing 18th.
Manificat had start No. 63 and held a slim lead at the halfway mark before tiring on the second lap. However, he had enough energy to sprint to the finish and narrowly beat Gloeersen’s time to secure the silver.
The start numbers are determined by the skiers’ overall World Cup placing, with Olsson having missed much of the season because of illnesses.
“In early January I didn’t think this would be possible,” Olsson said.