KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — Even when Marit Bjoergen has a rare off-day, her teammates can still bring Olympic medals home to Norway.
Maiken Caspersen Falla led a Norwegian double to take gold in the women's cross-country freestyle sprint at the Sochi Games on Tuesday. Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg narrowly beat Vesna Fabjan of Slovenia in a photo finish for the silver, giving Norway its first 1-2 finish in a women's cross-country event at the Olympics.
Falla's gold was her first Olympic medal, and Norway's 100th in the sport.
It was a milestone achieved despite Bjoergen, the defending champion and four-time gold medalist, getting knocked out in the semifinals after falling on the final straight.
"After seeing favorite after favorite not reaching the final, I really saw my opportunity," Falla said. "The rest of this day will be one dream and I won't understand what happened until I get back to Norway."
Fabjan took bronze, while Norway's Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen — whose brother died on the eve of the games — was fourth.
American skier Kikkan Randall's attempt to become the first American woman to win an Olympic cross-country skiing medal fell well short, as she finished fourth of six skiers in a tough quarterfinal heat that featured both Bjoergen and German sprint specialist Denise Herrmann.
"I was feeling really good and was ready to come off that final turn and have a good finish stretch, but that final gear wasn't quite there and unfortunately I fell apart a little bit before the finish," said Randall, a two-time World Cup sprint champion.
"I am sure I will be living those moments hundreds of times in my head," she said. "Just to come in the games as a gold medal contender was incredible. I wish I would have been able to fight for that in a few more rounds today."
Falla finished 20th in the sprint in Vancouver in her only previous Olympic start, but has two World Cup victories and looked to be the strongest skier throughout the day. She had the fastest time in qualifying and then won both her quarterfinal and semifinal heats.