Defending champion Klaebo leads teammates Valnes and Taugboel in men's final; Jessie Diggins eliminated in quarter-finals as Sweden's Jonna Sundling claims women's title
Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo successfully defended his cross-country individual sprint world title with a late surge at the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Oberstdorf, Germany, on Thursday (25 February), leading a Norwegian sweep of the podium.
Klaebo is the first man to win two sprint world titles in a row, and just the second person ever after his compatriot Marit Bjoergen, who won three women's sprints in a row from 2011 to 2015.
Going into the last bend onto the final straight behind Erik Valnes and ahead of Haavard Solaas Taugboel, Klaebo turned on the after-burners to overtake Valnes with less than 150 metres to go.
With the Norwegians comfortably dominating the race and setting the pace, the other finalists struggled. The top three were separated by just 0.80 seconds, with Alexander Bolshunov of the Russian Ski Federation some five seconds back in fourth.
"I've been so nervous the last couple of days, and it's been a really strange season with not that many races," Klaebo explained after the race.
"I think we've made decisions that weren't that good when we were sitting at home, but now it feels really great and it's for sure a dream come true.
"It was a really tough day. It was the right decision yesterday to salt (the course) and I think it's really hard out there when it's so warm, you're losing a lot of energy, but it's really great to have started the World Championships and to start with a gold medal."
Earlier, Sweden's Jonna Sundling became the first woman from her country since 2005 – and just the second ever – to win the women's individual sprint world title.
"I'm so happy, I just dreamt of this and to reach the top of the – to get this victory, it's amazing," Sundling said after her race.
"They were so strong, it was a fast and tough track and everyone did a really good job today. I'm really satisfied to be the first over the finish line."
She and teammate Johanna Hagstroem both went out hard from the start, setting a frantic pace for the rest of the field.
Defending champion Maiken Caspersen Falla of Norway, the Sochi 2014 Olympic champion in the event, started out poorly and appeared to slip twice, but fought her way back to work herself into second.
She was pushed all the way to the line by Slovenia's sprint World Cup leader Anamarija Lampic, who crossed the line just 0.03 seconds behind the Norwegian in a photo-finish.
American Jessie Diggins had a day to forget, however. After qualifying just 23rd of the 30 finalists, she was eliminated in the quarter-finals, finishing fifth in her heat.