Sochi 2014: Marit Bjoergen overcomes tragedy in pursuit of history

Sochi 2014: Norwegian cross-country skier Marit Bjoergen claims gold then cries on podium following teammate's brother's death

By Sportsbeat
Iron Lady: Marit Bjoergen Photo: Hoyre/Twitter

Norwegian heroine Marit Bjoergen claimed her fourth gold in the ladies’ 15km skiathlon – despite the shock death of her teammate’s brother yesterday – to keep her on course to match the Winter Olympic record for gold medals won.

At 33 years and 324 days, Bjoergen this morning became the oldest ever female to win an individual Winter Olympic gold, in a weekend marred with tragedy.

The four-time Olympian was reduced to tears after the event, following the unexpected death of team member Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen’s brother on Friday.

Today I went for Astrid and I promised her to go fast, I had more power today to go for her

Bronze medallist Heidi Weng

Four Norwegians competed today, all wearing black armbands and their close-knit relationship was evident as they all embraced at the finish-line, as later Bjoergen and bronze medallist Heidi Weng cried while on the winners’ podium.

Jacobsen, who finished second in the World Cup, was not due to appear today but was a likely candidate to feature in the team sprint and relay.

The team’s statement did not expand on the sudden death but said that Jacobsen wanted “her teammates to focus on Saturday’s competition.”

Weng attributed her performance to teammate Jacobsen saying: “Today I went for Astrid and I promised her to go fast, I had more power today to go for her.”

Meanwhile, all eyes are on Olympic veteran Bjoergen as she attempts to equal her countryman Bjorn Daehlie’s all-time record of eight career golds in the Winter Olympics.

Bjoergen who won five medals – three gold – to become top performer at the Vancouver 2010 Games, is featuring in six events this time around.

The “Iron Lady”, as she is nicknamed, has remained realistic, if humble at the expectations set upon her, saying: “I know how difficult it can be.

“There are a lot of other strong girls and I have to be in good shape, with good skis and have a good day. I’m happy to get one Olympic gold medal.

“One gold was my goal, so now I can relax a little bit, I can enjoy the rest of the games.

“I’m here to do my best, I’m not thinking about Daehlie or Bjoerndalen. This might be my last Olympics.”

Bjoergen, the most successful women’s Cross-Country skier ever, with 64 individual career victories, completed the course at the Laura Biathlon and Ski Complex in a time of 38:33.

The four-time Olympian was rarely out of the first two throughout the skiathlon, and fought back on the final turn after losing her lead to Swedish rival Charlotte Kalla on the final uphill climb.

Kalla prevented a Norwegian clean sweep, by claiming silver ahead of Weng and fourth-placed Therese Johaug.

Two of Bjoergen’s medal attempts are in team events, and with cross-country being nicknamed “Nordic” skiing it is unsurprising that the Norwegians have such a decorated history in the sport.

Norway are also the top-ranked nation in terms of all time Winter Olympics success, with today’s medals adding to their total tally of 306.

However, especially after today’s runner-up result, the rivalry between them and Sweden is fierce, with the Norwegians conceding three golds to their neighbours in 2010.

Although Bjoergen is favourite to win her remaining individual efforts, her endeavour to achieve all-time glory may yet be thwarted by the Swedish sprint team, who claimed silver in Vancouver.

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