Norway's Therese Johaug wins first gold of Beijing Games in women's 15-kilometer skiathlon

Cross-country skier Therese Johaug of Norway has won the first gold medal of the Beijing Games in the women's 15-kilometer skiathlon.

Johaug fought wind and frigid temperatures to win by skiing away from a chase group of four.

Russian athlete Natalia Nepryaeva, the current overall World Cup leader, pulled away from the group on the last climb to take the silver. Teresa Stadlober of Austria followed just behind for the bronze medal.

The skiathlon was a mass-start race that began with 7.5 kilometers of classic skiing. After striding two laps around the 3.75-kilometer course, racers came through the stadium and quickly switched to skate skis before heading out for another two laps.

Johaug crossed the line with her arms in the air and a huge smile on her face. She has 10 world championship titles but had never won an individual gold Olympic medal.

Dinigeer Yilamujiang, a skier from China's Uyghur community who helped deliver the Olympic flame to the opening ceremony of the Beijing Games, placed 43rd.

Nepryaeva is competing in her second Olympics. She won bronze in a relay race at the Pyeongchang Games. Stadlober is competing in her third Winter Games and won her first medal.

Kerttu Niskanen of Finland finished fourth and Frida Karlsson of Sweden was fifth, just ahead of Jessie Diggins of the United States in sixth.

Heidi Weng of Norway was missing from the race. She tested positive for COVID-19 and spent time in isolation. It was unclear whether she would attend the Winter Games.