Norway’s Therese Johaug won gold in the 30 kilometre mass start to secure a hat-trick of titles at Beijing 2022 and close her Olympic career with victory.
Johaug had won the 10km classical and 15km skiathlon events earlier in the Games, and survived a ferocious wind to prevail after nearly an hour and a half of tough racing.
The 30-year-old beat American competition in Jessie Diggins, who became the first non-European medallist in the event's history, whilst Finland's Kerttu Niskanen was victorious in the battle for bronze.
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Weather conditions proved to be brutal at the Zhangjiakou National Cross-Country Skiing Centre, and strong winds clearly had an effect on the opening 1.3km as skiers were significantly slower than usual.
After 2.9km there was a breakaway pack of four riders led by Johaug, closely followed by Sweden’s Ebba Andersson, Diggins and Claudel Delphine representing France.
As the riders approached the 10.4km mark Johaug and Diggins started to pull even further ahead, with Diggins six seconds off the pace and Andersson 16.8s behind the American in the silver medal position. Claudel had dropped a further 32.2s off the leader after rubbing shoulders with the Norwegian just a few kilometers before, and her medal hopes started to fade as the chasing pack caught up with her.
At the halfway stage, Johaug was the strong favourite for the gold medal as she increased her lead to 27 seconds. Diggins still held her place in second by a little over 11 seconds - as did Andersson in third - but the chasing pack began to start breathing down the neck of Claudel in fourth.
Finnish duo Kerttu Niskanen and Krista Parmakoski were part of the chasing pack that overtook Claudel on the approach to the 16.3km mark, as the French skier dropped to eighth.
As the riders drew closer to the end, it started getting tighter. Andersson completely lost her way and dropped to eighth, whilst the original chasing pack made up ground on leaders Johaug and Diggins.
Johaug crossed the line in 1:24.54 to claim gold, as Diggins deservedly secured silver as she finished two minutes and 43 seconds behind the Norwegian.
Andersson’s compatriot Jonna Sundling battled for bronze with Niskanen, but the latter beat her to the finish line by a fraction, whilst Russian Tatiana Sorina finished fifth, and Brennan made up the top six.
Claudel and Andersson, who were part of the original pack that broke away towards the beginning, finished seventh and eighth respectively.
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