VAL DI FIEMME (AP) — Johan Olsson dominated to win the individual 50-kilometer classic on Sunday and capture Sweden's first gold medal with a brilliant solo performance on the last day of the Nordic World Championships.
Olsson attacked early and was sole leader for an astonishing 30 kilometers, winning in 2 hours, 10 minutes, 41.4 seconds. The 32-year-old Swede beat Switzerland's Dario Cologna by 12.9 seconds, with Alexey Poltoranin finishing third, 16.8 seconds behind Olsson.
"It was sink or swim. Doing it this way is absolutely fantastic," Olsson said. "It was not planned to be so early. When I went, I thought that maybe it was stupid. "I saw that I had 500 feet (at the top of the last hill), so I realized victory was mine. This is the biggest race you can win, so it means a lot. But the actual performance, to go solo so far, means more than the gold medal."
Petter Northug, who has won at the past two world championships as well as at the 2010 Olympics, failed to add to his haul of two golds and a silver at these worlds. The Norwegian cross-country great finished more than two minutes behind Olsson, in 21st place.
"Yes of course you are a bit surprised," Olsson said of Northug. "He is king of the 50K after all. "He came up to me after the race and gave me the world champion tag and said, 'We do that in football, you get my jersey.' It felt damn good."
It was Sweden's first gold after six silver medals at Val di Fiemme. Olsson finished second behind Northug in the 15km freestyle, and lost out to Norway again in the men's relay. "Johan has never said that he will beat me, he just did it," Northug said. "He gets respect from me."
Olsson and Cologna broke free from the group after 11 kilometers and built up a small advantage on the chasing pack. However, Cologna fell on the steep downhill just after the 20K mark and was caught by the rest of the group.
Olsson was forced to go it alone for the rest of the race and he continued at an impressive pace. He had half-a-minute advantage going into the final lap. Compatriot Daniel Richardsson did well to close that gap to 12.9 seconds in just 2K, but was swallowed up by the group with five kilometers to go.
Olsson increased his pace to win Sweden's first world title in the 50K in 20 years. Cologna won a sprint for second, while Poltoranin of Kazakhstan edged out Alexander Legkov for the bronze. "Johan deserved his victory," Cologna said. "When I fell, the gap to the chasers wasn't much and I don't think they would have let us go like that because they had too much respect for us. But when I was caught, they immediately slowed the tempo and Johan could profit from that. I think it was better for me to find myself back in the group. I could finish very strongly and I am very happy with this second medal.
"He is not the best at sprinting, so to attack from the start was the right thing for him. Because my skis were really good, especially on the first part of the course, I decided to follow him. I don't think the fall played that important a role because the group was chasing really strong behind us."
It is Poltoranin's second bronze after finishing third in the team sprint with Nikolay Chebotko. "I hoped to take the podium and I did it today in a very difficult race," Poltoranin said. "I'm very tired, it was very warm weather. I think I'll get two medals in Sochi, I hope gold but bronze is good, too."
Norway ends the championships top of the medal table, with 19. The tally includes eight golds, half of which were down to Marit Bjoergen, who won three individual races and one team event. France is second with four medals — all of which involved Jason Lamy Chappuis. It has three golds, while two of Russia's five medals are gold.