Johaug left rivals in the fog

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Skiing star Therese Johaug put on another show of strength and skill on Sunday, and continued the Norwegians’ winning streak this season. Her smashing victory in the women’s 30-kilometer race at Holmenkollen in Oslo will go down in the record books as the most decisive since the race was launched in 1993.

Therese Johaug raised her arms in triumph and let off some characteristic screams of joy after winning the women's 30-kilometer race at Holmenkollen on Sunday. PHOTO: Holmenkollen Ski Festival/Magnus Nyløkken

Therese Johaug raised her arms in triumph and let off some characteristic screams of joy after winning the women’s 30-kilometer race at Holmenkollen on Sunday. PHOTO: Holmenkollen Ski Festival/Magnus Nyløkken

Johaug, a 27-year-old skiing sensation from a village called Dalsbygda in eastern Norway, finished fully three minutes and 46.5 seconds ahead of her closest rival, fellow Norwegian Ingvild Flugstad Østberg. Anne Kylionen of Finland came in third, four minutes and 16 seconds behind Johaug.

Johaug pulled ahead of the pack after just 150 meters and stayed there for the rest of the race. “I was surprised that I got a window of opportunity already on the first uphill,” Johaug told reporters after the race. She said she wasn’t afraid she’d opened too hard. “It’s seldom I crack,” she said with her characteristic laugh.

She also let off some of her well-known screams after crossing the finish line. Her victory only added to her huge lead in the overall World Cup competition, and she called her race “maybe the best race I’ve done during my career.”

It’s hard to believe that so much strength and endurance can come out of the relatively small and thin Johaug, who always bubbles over with enthusiasm for her sport. She’s the one who impulsively flew into the arms of King Harald V after winning at the World Championships at Holmenkollen in 2011, and she relished her royal congratulations this time as well.

Wants a return to interval starts
Even after trouncing her rivals on Sunday, though, Johaug made a pitch to bring back interval starts to the race, instead of having all the skiers start at once. “I want to go back to the old interval starts here at ‘Kollen,” she told newspaper Aftenposten. “I think all the athletes want that for the 30K and 50K races, with all the excitement that comes with it.”

She added that “we’ve worked hard for it, but it’s the FIS (International Ski Federation) and those who make TV programs out of this and many others over us who think that starting all together makes for better TV. But we can still keep fighting for it.”

FIS’ cross-country chief Vegard Ulvang, a former Norwegian World Champion and Olympic gold medall winner, disagrees with Johaug’s claim. He thinks there’s little difference in the excitement and tension whether everyone starts together, or at intevals in smaller groups.

No one came close to beating Johaug regardless on Sunday. “She pulled out in front very early, and maybe we had a bit too much respect for that,” second-place finisher Østberg told Aftenposten, adding that she’s not giving up the prospect of beating Johaug on later occasions.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund