Sweden skis to first medal in Vancouver

The last time a Swedish woman won an individual gold medal in cross country skiing was at the 1968 Olympics.

All that changed on Monday.

The later starting competitors hadn’t even crossed the finish line when Charlotte Kalla won gold in the women’s 10km cross country freestyle race.

“It is crazy right now. I can’t believe I am an Olympic gold medallist,” Kalla told CTV. “I felt good the whole race. I just tried to focus on my plan and be patient.”

Defending gold medallist Kristina Smigun-Vaehi, from Estonia, finished with a time of 25:05.0. When she finished racing, her first-place time seemed untouchable.

The closest anyone had come to Smigun-Vaehi’s time was Norway’s Marit Bjoergen who went on to win bronze with a time of 25:14.3.

Then Kalla crossed the finish with an impressive time, beating Smigun-Vaehi by 6.6 seconds, which would ultimately prove to be unbeatable.

In an event boasting participation from more than 20 countries, Canada was represented by one athlete.

Madeleine Williams, a 26-year-old from Alberta,  finished 51 out of 78 with a time of 27:43.6. 

“I got a really big rush at the start line,” Williams told CTV. “I was able to push at the end because the crowd on the last hill was so phenomenal.”

Poland’s Justyna Kowalczyk, who was the top-ranked skier going into the race, finished fifth.

This event was raced in the freestyle form, using smaller skis and bigger poles, instead of the classic style that was seen at the Turin Games in 2006.

The two methods are alternated every Olympics.

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