Cross-country skiing superstar Marit Bjoergen won her fourth gold medal in her fourth Olympic games, making her Norway’s most successful female Olympic athlete.
Her win Saturday in the skiathlon also made her the oldest woman ever to win gold in this sport. Bjoergen, who won three golds in the Vancouver Games in 2010, is almost 34. Her latest win takes her total Olympic medal haul to eight.
Gathered under blue skies on a day that was a bit too warm for ideal skiing conditions, the small Norwegian contingent at the Laura cross-country centre erupted in cheers when Bjoergen crossed the finish line just ahead of Swedens Charlotte Kalla. Bjoergen’s Norwegian teammate Heidi Weng took bronze, her first Olympic medal.
“One gold was my goal, so now I can relax a little bit,” Bjoergen said. “I can enjoy the rest of the Games.”
Bjoergen’s gold was the second of the Sochi winter Olympics. Earlier in the day, American Sage Kotsenburg placed first in men’s slopestyle.
Skiathlon is a relatively new sport – Sochi marks its third Olympic appearance. In the women’s edition, it combines a 7.5-km run in the “classic” cross-country style, where the athletes push in the grooves in the snow, followed by a 7.5-km run in the “free” technique, which requires a lunging skating style. The competitors change skis before the second half, where they can lose or gain a precious second or two, depending on how fast they can step into their bindings. The course takes a somewhat different route in the second half.
Bjoergen was the narrow favourite in the skiathlon, an event she dominated in the 2013 world championships in Val di Fiemme, Italy.
Three Canadian women – Brittany Webster, Emily Nishikawa and Amanda Ammar – competed in the skiathlon but finished well back in the pack of 61 athlete from 22 countries.