Norwegians Johnsrud Sundby, Johaug cap dominating weekend by winning cross-country pursuits

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KUUSAMO, Finland — Norwegian duo Martin Johnsrud Sundby and Therese Johaug defended their leads to win pursuit races on Sunday to wrap up a three-day mini tour that opened the cross-country skiing World Cup.

Johnsrud Sundby won the men's 15-kilometer classic race in 37 minutes, 10.0 seconds to lead a Norwegian sweep, as Petter Northug advanced from fourth to second and Finn Haagen Krogh was third. Northug finished 44.7 seconds behind the winner, with Krogh 46.5 back.

Johnsrud Sundby started 13.8 seconds ahead of Krogh after winning a 10K freestyle race on Saturday and quickly extended his lead.

"I aimed to open skiing hard, to keep the field well behind," Johnsrud Sundby said. "After three laps I felt strain but I held on, toward the end it was extremely hard work."

Johaug was also in a class of her own, winning the women's 10K race in 27:22.3 seconds. Sweden's Stina Nilsson was second, 22.6 seconds behind, and Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg of Norway was 32.4 back in third.

"I was focused, but got a lump in my throat at the first uphill when I was forced to change to the fishbone steps," Johaug said, referring to the more time-consuming technique for negotiating steep hills. "But I shook it off, put on 'blinders' and did my very own race."

Johnsrud Sundby, the defending overall World Cup champion, opened up an early lead in the standings to sit 66 points ahead of Northug and with 110 points down to Krogh in third.

"A great start to the season, everything worked well," Johnsrud Sundby said.

Johaug leads the women's overall standings 33 points ahead of Nilsson, who had two runner-up finishes over the weekend. Oestberg trails Johaug by 76 points.

Norway's Heidi Weng started third but made a bizarre mistake after seven kilometers when she didn't realize she had another lap to go. She sprinted down the final stretch and threw herself over the finish line to lie exhausted on the ground. When she was told there was another lap, she was given permission to change track and continue the race, but the mistake cost her six placings in the end.

The World Cup event at the Ruka ski center was marred by bad weather. Both events in ski jumping and Nordic combined were cancelled as hard winds prevented jumping.

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