US, Russia win team sprints at Nordic Worlds

The winner Jessica Diggins, right, and teammate Kikkan Randall of the United States celebrate after finishing the Ladies 6x1.2 km Free Team Sprint at the Nordic Ski World Championships in Val di Fiemme,Italy, Sunday Feb.24,2013.(AP Photo/Armando Trovati)

VAL DI FIEMME, Italy (AP) — Kikkan Randall and Jessica Diggins gave the United States its first ever world championship gold in cross-country skiing on Sunday by winning the women's team sprint by nearly eight seconds.

After Diggins opened up a small lead on her last leg, Randall anchored the American duo to the victory with a scorching final lap to pull away from the Swedish and Finnish teams.

The American pair finished the 6x1.2-kilometer event in 20 minutes, 24.4 seconds, beating Swedish defending champions Charlotte Kalla and Ida Ingemarsdotter by 7.8 seconds. Finland's Riika Sarasoja-Lilja and Krista Lahteenmaki were third, 10.9 seconds behind the Americans.

Norway, one of the pre-race favorites, finished fourth after Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg fell.

It was the second American gold at these Nordic skiing worlds after Sarah Hendrickson's triumph in the women's ski jump. Randall became the first American woman to win a cross-country medal at the worlds in 2009 when she claimed silver in the individual sprint.

Diggins made her break on the penultimate leg, attacking on the steepest climb of the track. The 21-year-old pushed so hard she even broke a pole near the top, but her coach was on hand to rush and give her a replacement.

At the final change-over, Diggins was 1.4 seconds ahead of Kalla — and Randall then extended the lead with the fastest lap of any skier in the final.

In the men's 6x1.5-kilometer event, Alexei Petukhov and Nikita Kriukov of Russia beat Sweden's Marcus Hellner and Emil Joensson by 0.4 seconds to win in 21:30.9.

Kazakhstan duo Nikolay Chebotko and Alexey Poltoranin won a photo finish for bronze, edging out defending champions Canada by 0.03 seconds.

A strong climb by Petukhov on his final lap gave Russia the lead at the final exchange, leaving Olympic champion Kriukov — who won the individual sprint on Thursday — to clinch the result.

Poltoranin secured bronze with a perfectly-timed plunge to place his boot ahead of Alex Harvey's of Canada.

Norway surprisingly failed to qualify for the final after Paal Golberg and Petter Northug finished sixth in the semifinals.