WHISTLER (AP) -- Russia's Nikita Kriukov edged countryman Alexander Panzhinskiy in a photo finish to win the gold medal in the men's individual classic cross-country sprint.
Kriukov's winning time Wednesday was 3 minutes, 36.3 seconds. The bronze medal went to Norway's Petter Northug, who finished a whopping 9.2 seconds later.
The Russians set a quick pace from the start, and it became a two-man race over the final third of the 1.6-kilometer competition. On one of the big turns, Alexey Poltaranin of Kazakhstan fell, taking out Norway's Oeystein Pettersen.
The Russian teammates scooted the tips of their skis across the finish line after a furious scamper down the stadium's straightaway, then waited for the judge's review.
When Kriukov was announced as the winner, he and Panzhinskiy held the Russian flag between them, trotting down the track-side stands in triumph, their skis held high on either side.
Northug, the World Cup leader who was expected to dominate the Vancouver Games, gained a measure of redemption for his performance in the 15K, when he quickly realized he didn't have the skis or stamina to challenge the leaders and settled for 41st place.
Norway failed to win a cross-country gold medal in Italy, and Northug, the 24-year-old World Cup leader and best Norwegian skier since the great Bjoern Daehlie, was facing enormous pressure to end that drought in Vancouver. Instead, teammate Marit Bjoergen took care of that, winning the women's individual cross-country sprint just minutes before.
Northug will race in each of the four remaining cross-country competitions.
Swedish skier Emil Joensson, one of the favorites in this race, didn't make it out of the semifinal round at sun-splashed Whistler Olympic Park.
American Andy Newell, who placed second in the 80-man field in qualifying at the Turin Games, slid off the slick course during the qualification round this time and finished in 45th. He failed to reach the quarterfinals, where the top 30 skiers competed in elimination heats consisting of six competitors each.
"I tried to ski conservatively on this course, but it's a tricky thing. I just found some ice," said Newell, of Shaftsbury, Vt.
Another of the top U.S. sprinters, Torin Koos, of Leavenworth, Wash., followed up his illness-plagued Turin Games with a disappointing 36th-place finish on the 1.6-kilometer course.
"I've thought of this every single day since the closing ceremonies in 2006," said Koos, the son of former U.S. biathlete Shaun Koos. "I remember thinking when they were taking down the flag and I will be better, I have four years to get it right. And I didn't get it right."
The only American to qualify for the quarterfinals was Simi Hamilton of Aspen, Colo., who slipped in at 29th, almost seven seconds behind the leader Panzhinskiy.
He didn't advance past the quarterfinals. Nor did defending gold medalist Bjoern Lind of Sweden, who won the race in Turin when it was a freestyle event.
Switzerland's Dario Cologna, who won the 15K on Monday, didn't enter this race as he focuses on the distance competitions.
Steve Holcomb and his 'Night Train' crew -- Justin Olsen, Curt Tomasevicz and Steve Mesler -- raced to Olympic gold on Day 15 of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games for the first U.S. four-man title since 1948.
South Korea's Kim Yu-Na wins the ladies' figure skating gold medal; watch the full routine and interview.
Photo highlights from Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse's women's bobsled gold-medal victory on Feb. 24, Day 13 of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games.