For the first time in 26 years, Norway won the Women’s 4 x 5-kilometer Relay Classic/Free at the Winter Olympics, crushing their competitors along the way.
All four Norwegian skiers — with Vibeke Skofterud out first, followed by Therese Johaug on the second lap, Kristin Størmer Steira on the third and anchor Marit Bjørgen on the last — performed strongly and the first three had put things right for Bjørgen when she took over. It didn’t take her long to leave her nearest rivals from Germany, Finland and Sweden in the dust.
Photo from fOTOGLIF
The victory was especially sweet for Kristin Størmer Steira, who thought she’d won the bronze in the 15-kilometer Pursuit late last week, only to land in fourth place after a photo finish. On Thursday, it was time to savour the results of years of training and hard work. “There are no words to describe this feeling,” she told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). Johaug agreed. “It’s just indescribable,” she said. “A dream come true.”
Braving the weather.
The relay was held in bad weather, with wet snow pouring down, but no one seemed to mind. King Harald was in the grandstands and it was the Norwegians’ day to shine. Bjørgen skied hard throughout the race but started smiling about 800 meters from the finish line, before entering the stadium. With no one in sight behind her, she knew her team had won. When one of the many cheering spectators on the sidelines thrust out a flag for her, she grabbed it and waved it proudly before literally hopping over the finish line and into the arms of her waiting teammates. Their winning time: 20 kilometers in 55 minutes, 19.5 seconds.
For Norway, their gold medal was the seventh of this Winter Olympics, putting Norway on par with the USA and even further ahead in the historic total. As of Thursday afternoon, Norway had 19 medals and 302 since the Winter Olympics began, including 105 gold medals, compared to 85 for the USA, 79 for the former Soviet Union and 77 for Germany.
LOWER PICTURE: Gold medalists team Norway (L-R) Therese Johaug, Kristin Størmer Steira, Vibeke W. Skofterud, and Marit Bjørgen celebrate on the podium during the medal ceremony of Women’s 4×5 km Relay Classic/Free Cross Country competition. EPA/STEPHAN JANSEN