Charlotte Kalla of Sweden led from start to finish Monday to win the women's 10-kilometer freestyle race at the Vancouver Games for her first Olympic gold medal.
Kalla led by more than 12 seconds with less than three kilometers to go in the interval-start race and then held off Kristina Smigun-Vaehi's strong finish to win in 24 minutes, 58.4 seconds.
"It feels crazy right now," Kalla said. "I can't believe I am a gold medalist."
Smigun-Vaehi, the Estonian who won two golds at the 2006 Turin Games but has struggled this season, won silver after finishing 6.6 seconds behind Kalla. Marit Bjoergen of Norway took the bronze medal, 15.9 seconds back.
Coming down the last hill into the ski stadium, the 22-year-old Kalla nearly fell as she came around the final bend but managed to stay on her feet and sprint her way to a gold in her first Olympic start.
"I just tried to focus on my plan and be patient," Kalla said. "It was fantastic."
The 10K freestyle is the Swede's best discipline by far, and she won a World Cup race in the same event in Canmore, Alberta, this month.
The results were provisional as some lower-ranked skiers had yet to finish.
World Cup leader and double world champion Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland trailed from the start, finishing fifth behind Anna Haag of Sweden.
Bjoergen missed out on a gold medal again — she already had two silver medals from Turin and the 2002 Salt Lake City Games.
The Associated Press has contributed to the report.
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