'Super Dario' pulls off 3-peat in cross-country 15km freestyle

Canada's Alex Harvey finishes 7th

'Super Dario' pulls off 3-peat in cross-country 15km freestyle
Switzerland's Dario Cologna reacts after winning the men's 15-kilometre freestyle, becoming the first cross-country skier to win three Olympic gold medals in the same event. © Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

By Steve Reed, The Associated Press

Switzerland's Dario Cologna has solidified his legacy as one of the best distance cross-country skiers of all time.

Cologna, known throughout his sport as "Super Dario," became the first cross-country skier to win three Olympic gold medals in the same event, capturing the 15-kilometre freestyle in dominating fashion Friday in South Korea. He also won this race in Vancouver in 2010 and Sochi in 2014.

"It takes a lot of effort to just to win one gold medal," Cologna said. "To write a little bit of history feels pretty good."

Cologna's three-peat gave Switzerland its first gold medal of the Pyeongchang Games.

It may have been his fourth career gold medal overall, but this one was special for him.

His family was there to cheer him on, and he broke down in tears after the race knowing the win pulled him even with ski jumper Simon Ammann and artistic gymnast Georges Miez for the most gold medals in his country's history.

"That's not too bad," Cologna said.

Cologna said he felt good from the beginning.

He dominated on the inclines, stomping up the hill like a machine to win the race in 33 minutes, 43.9 seconds, more than 18 seconds ahead of Simen Hegstad Krueger of Norway. Krueger took silver to give the Norwegian men their first medal in this event since 2002.

Russian Denis Spitsov earned bronze.

"Dario was in another league today," Krueger said. "He was amazingly strong. To take a silver medal is a victory for me."

Canada's Harvey finishes 7th

Canadian Alex Harvey finished 7th, 35 seconds behind Cologna, marking the country's best ever finish in the event. Ivan Babikov finished 8th in Vancouver.

"I really gave everything, I just missed a little spark as at 30 km" Harvey told Radio-Canada. 

"I missed a bit in the last three kilometres. But I can't be disappointed with a top-10."

Fellow Canadians Graeme Killick of Fort McMurray, Alta., finished 38th (36:23.3), Whitehorse's Knute Johnsgaard finished 69th (37:48.5), and Devon Kershaw of Sudbury, Ont., finished 71st (38:01.5).

Harvey called Cologna's win super-impressive, saying "he's got a huge engine and a cool head."

"He's been dominating this year," Harvey said. "I'm really happy for him. He's a great guy. It's good to see non-Scandinavian countries on the top of the podium. So it's good for the sport I think."

Norway's Krueger wins 2nd medal of Games

Krueger left happy, as well.

It was his second medal of the Winter Olympic Games. He also captured gold in the 30-kilometre skiathlon.

"It is a bit unreal," Krueger said. "The whole [Olympic Games] has been a dream. I had a small hope to maybe take a medal but then standing here with one gold and one silver medal out of two competitions is, what can I say, it is unbelievable."

French hopeful Maurice Manificat wasn't having that same feeling.

He was expected to medal in the event but finished fifth, one spot behind Norway's Martin Johnsrud Sundby.

"I feel deeply, deeply sad," Manificat said. "I gave all I had and you know it was my goal. Maybe I will have no more chances [for a gold medal] in individual races in my career."

Pita Taufatofua, perhaps best known as the oiled-up, shirtless flag bearer from Tonga, finished in 114th place.

He said the hardest part was keeping the pace.

"The 15-kilometre doesn't work so well for me — I always gas out by about the second kilometre," Taufatofua said with a laugh.

With files from CBC Sports, The Canadian Press and Radio-Canada