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History for Norway’s Bjoergen but no medal for US in Olympic cross-country opener

  • Author: Beth Bragg
  • Updated: February 10, 2018
  • Published February 10, 2018

Charlotte Kalla of Sweden celebrates after winning the 7.5km + 7.5km Skiathlon. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Sweden's Charlotte Kalla claimed the first gold medal awarded at the 2018 Winter Olympics, Norway's Marit Bjoergen became the most decorated woman in the history of the Games and Minnesota's Jessie Diggins came up 15 seconds short of a spot on the podium for the medal-hungry U.S. team Friday in South Korea.

Kalla, who pulled away from the lead pack with a couple of kilometers left, won the women's 15-kilometer skiathlon at Pyeongchang's Alpensia Cross Country Center.

Bjoergen finished 7.8 seconds behind her to take silver — her 11th medal in five Olympics, giving her more than any other woman in Winter Olympics history.

Diggins placed fifth, the best cross-country finish for an American woman in Olympic history.

"I'm really proud of my race. I could not have pushed harder," Diggins told reporters after the race. "Being seconds away from a medal and seeing it right there — I know it's possible, I know I have what it takes. I think I'm in a good place in these Games."

Charlotte Kalla of Sweden, Marit Bjoergen of Norway and Ebba Andersson of Sweden react after the race. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Only one American cross-country skier has ever left the Olympics with a medal — Bill Koch, who won silver 42 years ago at the 1976 Innsbruck Games.

Diggins was 14.7 seconds behind Kalla and 4.6 seconds behind bronze-medalist Krista Parmakoski of Finland, who nipped fourth-place Ebba Andersson of Sweden by eight-tenths of a second.

Jessica Diggins of the U.S.. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Four Anchorage skiers finished well off Kalla's winning pace of 40 minutes, 49.9 seconds. Caitlin Patterson was 34th (3:30 back), Kikkan Randall was 40th (4:02 back), Jessica Yeaton, skiing for Australia, was 50th (5 minutes back) and Rosie Brennan 58th (6:51 back).

Bjoergen, 37 and the mother of a 2-year-old, came to South Korea as one of three women with 10 Winter Olympics medals, a distinction she shared with cross-country skiers Raisa Smetanina of Russia and Stefania Belmondo of Italy. Smetanina skied in five straight Olympics from 1976 to 1992; Belmondo skied in five straight from 1988 to 2002.

The athlete with the most Winter Olympic medals is Norway's Ole Einer Bjoerndalen, a six-time Olympian with 13 biathlon medals collected between 1994 and 2014.

For Kalla, it was her third gold medal and sixth overall medal in three Olympics.

The race consisted of 7.5 kilometers of classic skiing followed by 7.5 kilometers of freestyle skiing. The men's 30K skiathlon is Saturday.

REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

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