A team sprint bronze medallist at Sochi 2014, Nilsson went fastest in qualifying and again in the quarter-finals, before edging Norway’s Falla in their semi-final. The Swede, noted for her sprinting abilities, then turned in a stunning display in the final.
Showing no signs of fatigue from the earlier rounds, Nilsson hit the front from the start and stayed there. Though Falla tried valiantly to close the gap, she could do nothing to stop Nilsson winning by a margin of over three seconds. Falla had to hold off a storming finish by Olympic Athlete from Russia (OAR) Yulia Belorukova to take the silver, with the 24-year-old Belorukova having to settle for bronze.
“I feel very emotional and also very happy,” said the victorious Nilsson afterwards. “I felt strong during the whole day, so to be able to take the gold medal was fantastic.
“It means so much,” she continued. “I have worked so hard for this, for so many years. I’ve had a lot of ups and downs and to take the gold medal today is something I’m going to be proud of for the rest of my life. I’ve really had the best day of my life so far.”
Reflecting on her silver, Falla said: “I did my best and to achieve a silver medal in the Olympics is huge. It means so much. I’ve been training for this the whole season and I knew it was possible to win a medal. So, I’m really happy today and I’ve achieved my goal for this season.”
Twenty-two-year-old former Winter Youth Olympic Games athlete Anamarija Lampic of Slovenia was the best placed of the eight-strong YOG contingent in the field. A 5km classic silver medallist at Innsbruck 2012, Lampic impressed in progressing all the way to the semi-finals, where she finished fourth in her race.
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Photo: Rémy Gros