Hellner, Bjoergen win cross-country season-openers
Markus Hellner delighted a Swedish home crowd while Marit Bjoergen was unstoppable on the women's side on Saturday in the opening races of the cross-country skiing World Cup, DPA reported.
Hellner, who turns 25 on Thursday, steadily extended an early lead to win a 15-kilometres freestyle race in 32 minutes 11.4 seconds.
It was the second World Cup win for the Swede who won Olympic pursuit and relay gold at the Vancouver Games in February.
Hellner beat the 15km Olympic champion Dario Cologna of Switzerland by 11.4 seconds and third place went to Sweden again in the form of Daniel Rickarsson, who trailed by 20.1 seconds for his first career podium.
Norwegian biathlon star Ole-Einar Bjoerndalen made another excursion to cross-country skiing but had to settle for 25th place.
Not competing was three-time Olympic champion and World Cup holder Petter Northug of Norway, who is recovering from a sickness and according to news reports undergoing tests for mononucleosis.
Earlier, Bjoergen completely dominated the women's 10km in 23:48.8 minutes from Sweden's Charlotte Kalla (41.4 seconds behind) and Arianna Follis of Italy (51.4). Reigning World Cup champion Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland had to settle for seventh, more than a minute off the pace.
Bjoergen improved to 38 World Cup victories, including six of the last nine season-openers. She also has two overall World Cup titles.
Bjoergen was the star at the Vancouver Olympics in February with three gold, one silver and one bronze medal. She will hope for a similar haul at the home world championships in Oslo which mark the highlight of the new season.
Women's and men's relay races are scheduled for Sunday in Gallivare.