World Cup XC season starts in Finland

RUKA, Finland (AP) — Swedish skier Stina Nilsson and Norway’s Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo won sprint races as the cross-country World Cup opened its Olympic season today.

Nilsson won the women’s classical event by 0.24 seconds from Sadie Bjornsen of the United States. Yulia Belorukova of Russia was third, 0.91 seconds off the pace.

Nilsson continued her strong form after winning the last three World Cup sprints last season. “I had a really good feeling,” she said.

The reigning overall World Cup men’s sprint champion, Klaebo, won his event in dominant style.

Klaebo built up a big lead and was able to ease off well before the finish line as he won by 1.35 seconds from fellow Norwegian Paal Golberg.

Third place went to Calle Halfvarrson of Sweden, 2.68 seconds further back.

Russia entered three men’s and women’s skiers who have been banned by the International Olympic Committee for their part in a Russian doping scheme at the 2014 Olympics.

The IOC bans doesn’t stop skiers racing in non-Olympic events, and the International Ski Federation has opted not to impose its own suspensions until the IOC hands over more details of the evidence behind its rulings.

Of the three Russians serving IOC bans, Evgenia Shapovalova reached the women’s semifinals but missed a place in the final by 0.38 seconds.

In the men’s event, Maxim Vylegzhanin and Evgeny Belov didn’t get past the qualifying round.

Belorukova hasn’t faced any IOC sanctions.

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