Sweden's Charlotte Kalla wins 1st gold medal of 2018 Olympics

Cross-country skier reaches top of podium in 15km skiathlon

Sweden's Charlotte Kalla wins 1st gold medal of 2018 Olympics
Charlotte Kalla of Sweden celebrates winning the women's cross-country 15km skiathlon race at the Alpensia Cross Country Centre in Pyeongchang on Saturday. © Jeon Heon-Kyun/EPA-EFE

By Steve Reed, The Associated Press

Charlotte Kalla of Sweden captured the first medal of the Winter Games by taking gold in the 15-kilometre skiathlon in Pyeongchang on Saturday.

Kalla posted a winning time of 40 minutes 44.9 seconds in the race which is divided into equal classic technique and freestyle segments. 

Click on the video below to watch skiathlon highlights

Norway's Marit Bjoergen clocked in at 40:52.7 for silver, while Finland's Krista Parmakoski earned bronze with a time of 40:55.0.

Cendrine Browne was 33rd with a time of 44:01.9 for the top Canadian result, followed by Emily Nishikawa (44th), Anne-Marie Comeau (48th), and Dahria Beatty (52nd). 

Bjoergen makes history

Bjoergen captured her 11th career Olympic medal (six gold, four silver, one bronze), breaking a three-way tie with Raisa Smetanina of Russia and Stefania Belmondo of Italy.

Bjoergen thrust her arms up in the air as she crossed the finish, knowing she'd made history for most Winter Olympic medals by a female athlete.

For Kalla it was the sixth career Olympic medal — and third gold.

Kalla won the race by more than seven seconds, breaking away from the pack in the final two kilometres to avenge her loss to Bjoergen at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

"It feels very good to be ahead of Marit," Kalla said. "She's a fantastic skier."

But the 37-year-old Bjoergen, who won three gold medals in Vancouver in 2010 and three more in Sochi, proved she's still a dominant figure in the sport despite entering the competition ranked seventh in the world in the event.

"I have been very good for many years but I'm also getting older and the younger girls are getting better," Bjoergen said.

Meanwhile, Jessica Diggins finished fifth, missing a chance to become the first American woman to earn a medal in cross-country skiing.

With files from CBC Sports