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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Dementyev Claims Russia's First Gold

APRussia's Yevgeny Dementyev, left, celebrating as he crosses the finish line first in the men's cross-country race in Pragelato, Italy, on Sunday afternoon.
PRAGELATO, Italy -- Russia's Yevgeny Dementyev won the men's 30-kilometer pursuit race in the Olympic cross-country skiing on Sunday and Norway's Frode Estil launched an amazing comeback to take silver.

Italy's Pietro Piller Cottrer won the bronze after making a brave bid to give the host nation its first gold of the Games.

Cheered by a delirious home crowd, Piller Cottrer led as the athletes entered the stadium, but 200 meters from the finish Dementyev burst past him and then Estil pipped him to second place.

In a race lasting more than 1 hour, 15 minutes, the top three were separated by just 0.9 of a second.

Dementyev's victory was something of an upset. The 23-year-old has won only one World Cup race in his fledgling career and was appearing at his first Olympic Games.

"I don't have any words for it," he said. "I've never experienced such happiness in my life."

But the real surprise was Estil's remarkable fightback.

The double Olympic champion fell during the mass start, taking several other skiers with him. One of his skis came off and he lost around 20 seconds on the leaders.

He left the stadium in 77th and last place and, over the next hour and 20 minutes, toiled back up to the front.

He lay 14th at the 15-kilometer changeover -- when the competitors switch skis and are allowed to ski their preferred freestyle technique -- and then carved his way through the rest of the pack.

"I just tried to stay calm, concentrate on my own race and not get stressed," he said. "When the ski came off I thought my race was over, so it feels like it's gold, not silver."

The 33-year-old, who had a hill named after him near Salt Lake City following his successes four years ago, now has four Olympic medals in his collection and eight from the world championships.

Race favorite Tobias Angerer of Germany stayed with the leaders for much of the race but faded at the end and finished 12th.

World champion Vincent Vittoz of France managed only seventh, and German Rene Sommerfeldt, another favorite, was one of 10 men who failed to finish.

Italy's Giorgio di Centa, brother of former Olympic cross-country skier Manuela di Centa, was fourth in the host nation's most spirited performance of the Games so far.

At one point, it seemed he and Piller Cottrer might take gold and silver.