Smigun makes it two

    February 16, 2006

    Estonia's Kristina Smigun claimed her second gold medal of the Games after charging down the final stretch to win the women's 10km classic. Smigun impressed once again as she powered home clocking the fastest time ahead of Norway's Marit Bjoergen in silver position and Hilde G Pedersen in bronze.

    Smigun darted round the wet and demanding 10km course in a time of 27 minutes and 51.4 seconds, a whopping 21.3 seconds ahead of Marit Bjoergen who claimed her first Olympic medal of her career.

    Veteran skier Pedersen crossed the line 22.6 seconds off the pace and finally added an Olympic medal to her illustrious cross-country skiing career as well.

    Smigun became the first double gold medallist of the Games after the stunning performance in Pragelato.

    The early pace was set by Norway's Kristin Stormer Steira and Canada's Sara Renner but it was soon apparent that Smigun had her sights firmly set on gold as she kicked into action after the 6.2km mark.

    Renner had a good solid race but the last three kilometres of the race - including two extremely tough climbs - proved too much as it did for a lot of the athletes.

    But where the young Canadian started to falter, Olympic champion Smigun excelled.

    Smigun changed gears to power up the final two hills with determination and strength. The now double gold medallist put in a great performance down the final stretch to largely beat the bunch to the top spot.

    Norwegian skiing ace Bjoergen put her troubles of a stomach bug behind her to claim silvery second

    The 24-year old World Cup overall leader had already proved that she was on the road to recovery after Tuesday's team sprint fourth place - just missing out on a medal, but Thursday's effort showed that Bjoergen was well and truly back to race winning form.

    Bjoergen gave it her all and charged the last 100 metres edging compatriot Pedersen into bronze medal position.

    Pedersen paced her race very well indeed. The Norwegian veteran started slowly and gradually picked up the tempo after 2.6km.

    From then on the 41 year old was never outside the fastest six skiers throughout the race.

    But it was in the last 2.2km of the course that she dug deep and kept up a steady rhythm in an area of the course where others ran out of steam and dropped off the pace.

    Pedersen watched Bjoergen from the wings double pole down the last straight and finally push her into third place.

    RUSSIAN DISAPPOINTMENT

    The Russian camp had a disappointing day (not only in the Biathlon antidoping department) as their number one skier, Julija Tchepalova, found the going too tough and eventually crossed the line in a lowly 26th position an unusual two minutes and 13.3 seconds off the pace.

    Russia's highest placed skier was Natalia Baranova-Masolkina who crossed the finish line one minute and 39.5 seconds behind Smigun.