More history for Marit Bjorgen as Norway claims gold in 4x5km relay
Marit Bjorgen became the most decorated female Winter Olympian ever last Saturday.
On Thursday, Bjorgen tied Bjoern Daehlie as the most decorated cross-country skier of all-time.
“She is an absolute legend,” American cross-country skier Jessie Diggins said Saturday.
The legend reached new highs at the Alpensia Cross-Country Centre in PyeongChang, South Korea.
Bjorgen moved into a tie with fellow Norwegian, and King of Biathlon, Ole Einar Bjoerndalen as the most decorated Winter Olympian with her 13th medal as Norway claimed gold in the women’s 4x5km relay.
The gold medal is Bjorgen’s seventh of her Olympic career – most by an Olympic cross-country skier.
Only Daehlie and Bjoerndalen have more gold medals, with eight.
Three events into the PyeongChang Games for Bjorgen and she has made history in each.
“I haven’t thought about that,” she said. “I think, when you’re an athlete and still racing, you’re looking forward and not thinking about what you’ve done. You’re just looking forward to the next race.”
Looking forward to the next race.
For all Bjorgen has accomplished in PyeongChang already, she has two more races left.
Two more chances to increase her medal count. To add to her Olympic legacy.
“When I’ve finished skiing,” Bjorgen said, “I’ll look behind me and see what I will have done.
"It’s also important if you want to still be on a high level you forget what you have done.”
Based on her performance in the relay, the 37-year-old isn’t slowing down in her final Olympics.
Bjorgen anchored Norway’s relay team, and when she took the handoff from Ragnhild Haga, she had ground to make up. After three legs, Norway trailed Sweden and the Olympic Athletes from Russia.
But the 3.4-second deficit was not nearly enough to prevent Bjorgen from making the leap to head of the pack, and it certainly didn’t take long for the Norwegian to erased Sweden’s lead.
On the first hill climb of the final leg, Bjorgen made her move.
Swedish skier Stina Nilsson, who won gold in the women’s individual sprint, didn’t stand a chance.
“I was really inspired by the position the other girls had given to me,” Nilsson said, “and I just tried to keep up with Marit for as long as I could, but she was too strong for me in the finish. She had a really fast pace and I knew she was trying to go as fast as she could and, yeah, she was better than me today.”
Nilsson made a few valiant efforts to pass Bjorgen and retake the lead but to no avail. Bjorgen held off the 24-year-old Nilsson and sprinted to the finish line to secure the gold medal for Norway.
The gold medal is Norway’s 10th cross-country skiing medal of the PyeongChang Games.
“I think that Ingvild (Oestberg) was jumping up and down,” Haga said, “and Astrid (Uhrenholdt Jacobsen) was crying and I was a little bit calm. So it was mixed emotions on the team.”
Mixed emotions for a Norwegian cross-country skiing team that has dominated these Olympics.
Mixed emotions for three skiers who earned a gold largely because of Bjorgen’s final leg.
Perhaps the mixed emotions came from not believing what they had just seen.
“I was thinking last night and this day also,” Bjorgen said, “that it could be possible that I was going out with Stina and I knew that, for sure, that she’s very strong in the end.
“I thought it was going to be hard when I had Stina on my skis on the last lap, so I’m very happy. I can’t understand that I did it either.”
Sweden captured the silver medal, finishing two seconds behind Norway, and with the way Bjorgen sprinted to the finish line, those were a long two seconds. On the second leg, Charlotte Kalla overtook the lead from the Olympic Athletes from Russia and Sweden led until Bjorgen entered the race.
OAR took home the bronze medal, with Finland missing the podium. The U.S. finished in fifth place, as its 42-year Olympic medal drought in the sport lives on for at least another event.
“This is our best Olympic relay finish ever,” Kikkan Randall said, “and probably the most excitement we’ve ever had.”
Oestberg and Jacobsen also received gold medals along with Bjorgen and Haga. Oestberg skied the first leg, while Jacobsen went second.
Receiving silvers for Sweden are Anna Haag, who skied first, Kalla, Ebba Andersson and Nilsson.
Natalia Nepryaeva, Yulia Belorukova, Anastasia Sedova and Anna Nechaevskaya earned bronzes for the OAR.
Cross-country skiing returns Sunday with the men’s 4x10km relay.