Kikkan Randall and Jessica Diggins gave the US their first gold medal in cross-country skiing at the Nordic world championships, winning the women’s team sprint on Sunday.
The US duo finished 7.8 seconds ahead of defending champions Charlotte Kalla and Ida Ingemarsdotter of Sweden, who also finished second in the men’s event.
“It feels incredible,” Randall said. “This is something we’ve looked forward to for a long time. It’s my seventh world championship and I’ve had to spend a lot of time watching award ceremonies, so we’re pretty excited to do it and in a team event especially, and to finally get us on the podium.”
It was closer in the men’s race, with Alexei Petukhov and Nikita Kriukov of Russia edging Marcus Hellner and Emil Joensson by 0.4 seconds.
Olympic champion Jason Lamy Chappuis — who won the individual title on Friday — led France to victory in the Nordic combined team event. He finished 0.4 seconds ahead of Magnus Moan in a close sprint on the final straightaway. That was to be Norway’s only medal after they won six out of the 10 on offer on Saturday.
Japan won the first ever mixed team ski jumping title to secure their first gold of the championships.
In the women’s 6x1.2km sprint, Randall anchored the victory with a scorching final lap to pull away from the Swedish and Finnish teams. Finland’s Riika Sarasoja-Lilja and Krista Lahteenmaki were third, 10.9 seconds behind the US.
“That moment when your teammate comes running out [in the finish area] it starts to sink in that you’re world champion,” Randall said.
Norway, one of the pre-race favorites, finished fourth after Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg fell.
Randall is one of the top sprinters on the circuit, with seven individual World Cup victories to go with one win in the team event — also with Diggins in Quebec in December last year.
“I’m sprinting with the best sprinter in the world,” Diggins said. “I knew that if I could get her to take off in a good position, she’d be able to hold it and improve upon it. So I just tried to get her in the best spot I could.”
Diggins made her break on the next-to-last leg, attacking on the steepest climb of the track. She pushed so hard she even broke a pole near the top, but her coach was on hand to rush and give her a replacement.
At the final change-over, Diggins was 1.4 seconds ahead of Kalla — and Randall then extended the lead with the fastest lap of any skier in the final.
In the men’s 6x1.5km event, a strong climb by Petukhov on his final lap gave Russia the lead at the final exchange, leaving Kriukov — the Olympic champion who won the individual sprint on Thursday — to clinch the result.
Kazakhstan duo Nikolay Chebotko and Alexey Poltoranin won a photo finish for bronze, edging out defending champions Canada by 0.03 seconds.
Poltoranin secured bronze with a perfectly timed plunge to place his boot ahead of Alex Harvey of Canada.
Norway surprisingly failed to qualify for the final after Paal Golberg and Petter Northug finished sixth in the semi-finals.
In the Nordic combined, the French team of Francois Braud, Maxime Laheurte, Sebastien Lacroix and Lamy Chappuis started the cross-country relay 22 seconds behind Japan, who won the ski jumping element.
Norway started 50 seconds behind Japan after a poor opening jump from Joergen Graabak. They would have started even further back had Haavard Klemetsen not earned 125 points — the most of the round — with his jump.
Magnus Krog was the fourth member of the team.
Lamy Chappuis and Moan attacked on the next-to-last hill and were neck and neck right to the end when the Frenchman lunged to cross the line millimeters ahead of Moan.
The US were third, with Bill Demong coming in 4.2 seconds behind Lamy Chappuis.
Later, Yuki Ito, Daiki Ito, Sara Takanashi and Taku Takeuchi dominated in both rounds of the mixed jump to amass a total of 1,011 points in the event, which features two men and two women on each team.