Dario Cologna celebrates after crossing the line ©Getty Images

Dario Cologna returned to form in style to successfully defend his 15 kilometres freestyle crown here today and claim a fourth Winter Olympic Games gold medal overall. 

The Swiss star had finished a disappointing sixth in the 30km skiathlon earlier in the week after missing the crucial break.

But he swiftly recovered his poise today by taking the lead by the 6km time check and never looking back.

Cologna, who carried Switzerland's flag at the Opening Ceremony of Pyeongchang 2018, eventually crossed in 34min 02.20sec to finish 18 seconds clear of the rest of the field.

Norway's Simen Hegstad Krueger finished 18.3 seconds behind in second place as he continued the good form he showed when winning the skiathlon.

The three medal winners pose following the race today ©Getty Images
The three medal winners pose following the race today ©Getty Images

Denis Spitsov, racing for the Olympic Athletes from Russia, finished strongly to overhaul Norway's Martin Johnsrud Sundby and take the bronze medal in 34:06.90.

Cologna also won the 15km freestyle at Vancouver 2010 and the 30km skiathlon in Sochi. 

The 31-year-old burst into tears at the finish line and was comforted by his coaches when he heard the gold was secured.

He later waited to congratulate the last finisher German Madrazo of Mexico, who finished nearly 25 minutes behind.