- Associated Press - Saturday, December 19, 2015

DOBBIACO, Italy (AP) - Federico Pellegrino won a fifth World Cup cross-country ski sprint on Saturday to match Christian Zorzi as Italy’s most successful sprinter.

Cheered on by a home crowd, Pellegrino clocked 2 minutes, 29.57 seconds over the 1.3-kilometer course, edging out Simi Hamilton of the United States by 0.48 seconds.

“I’m excited to win the fifth free technique sprint,” Pellegrino said. “It feels amazing to win on the home ground. I am very thankful to my supporters.

“I am ready to move on now to the level of (Olympic champion Ola Vigen) Hattestad and (Emil) Joensson (13 wins).”

Andrew Young was third, 0.84 behind Pellegrino, in his first sprint final. He was the first British cross-country skier to make a World Cup sprint podium.

Pellegrino consolidated his lead in the sprint standings, while Martin Johnson Sundby’s advantage in the overall classification was cut slightly after finishing 12th - although the Norwegian remains 213 points clear.

Olympic champion Maiken Caspersen Falla won the women’s event, finishing 0.17 ahead of fellow Norwegian Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg, who won silver in Sochi in 2014.

Falla won in 2:47.28.

“It’s great to be on top again,” Falla said. “It was a battle last week and again this week. It will be a great battle all season.”

Stina Nilsson of Sweden, who got her first World Cup victory in cross-country ski sprints last Sunday, was third.

World Cup leader Therese Johaug could only finish 32nd, and her lead was shortened to 72 points ahead of Oestberg, with Nilsson 43 further back.

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