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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Di Centa Flies Past Yegorova

LILLEHAMMER, Norway -- Italy's Manuela Di Centa felt like she could fly. Russia's Lyubov Yegorova felt heavy.


After 15 kilometers of Olympic cross-country skiing Sunday, that added up to victory by one minute, 18.5 seconds for Di Centa, whose best previous major result was a silver medal in the 30-kilometer event in the World Championships last year.


"I was just thinking, 'Fly, fly, fly, Manuela, fly to the end,' and that's what I did," said Di Centa, 31, who had been in three previous Olympics without winning any individual medal. She won a bronze in a relay in 1992.


"I got my first Olympic gold and now I feel free like a white dove," she added.


Yegorova, who had won the 15-kilometer race in 1992 along with two other gold medals, said she knew almost from the beginning that she could not keep up with Di Centa.


"I just didn't feel the way I normally do, my legs were heavy, the whole course was difficult for me," said the Russian, who has two World Cup victories this season.


Another Russian, Nina Gavriluk, won the bronze medal Sunday, 1:25.9 behind the winner.


Despite temperatures as low as minus 20 Celsius, spectators packed the 31,000-seat Birkebeineren Ski Stadium and lined the trails for the competition in this nation of cross-country skiing fanatics.


Di Centa, the only non-Russian who has won a World Cup race this season, separated temporarily from the Italian team to prepare for the Olympics. She trained at the high-altitude resort of Livigno with Vladimir Smirnov, a Kazakh skier who was among the favorites for Monday's men's 30-kilometer race, but he finished a disappointing 10th.