HEIA SVERIGE! And Marit won, too

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Norway’s skiing queen Marit Bjørgen preserved her country’s honour at the Nordic world championships on Thursday, winning gold in the women’s sprint final. Sweden’s Marcus Hellner was the powerhouse for the men, beating Norway’s best hope Petter Northug by a wide margin.

Marcus Hellner and Emil Joensson were Sweden's heroes on Thursday, winning the first gold and bronze medals for men on the first day of competition at the Nordic world championships. PHOTO: NRK/Views and News

Hellner’s strength and endurance were impressive, as he roared into the stadium at Holmenkollen in the hills above Oslo. He had edged ahead of the pack of arguably the six best skiers in the world already during the first uphill challenge, and his spot out front only kept growing throughout the roughly three-minutes it took to cover a little more than 1.4 kilometers. The men’s sprint finalists included three Swedes, two Norwegians and one Estonian.

Hellner could share the glory of the winners’ platform with his fellow Swede Emil Joensson, who placed third on Thursday but also had beaten the often smug Northug in a pre-championships competition outside Drammen last weekend. Hellner and Joensson were rightfully proud, with Joensson whooping and hollering from the podium.

Petter Northug, Norway's much-hyped skiing star, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that it was "always unpleasant to be beaten by Swedes." He placed second in the men's sprint final. PHOTO: NRK/Views and News

Norwegian fans not surprisingly dominated the grandstands and had hoped for a double Norwegian victory on the first day of competition during the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships (Ski-VM). The hype around Northug has been formidable. But no one could fail to be impressed by Hellner’s rush towards the goal. He was, quite simply, the world champion.

Northug, who seemed to be chewing gum during his obligatory interview with Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) after the race, admitted it was “always unpleasant to be beaten by Swedes.” He vowed revenge in the next batch of competition for men on Sunday.

Marit Bjørgen, meanwhile, was all smiles during her interview with NRK after winning the women's sprint final. That got Norway off to a golden start in the Nordic world championships after all. PHOTO: NRK/Views and News

Marit Bjørgen, meanwhile, grabbed the most local media attention after winning the women’s sprint final, although not by as much of a lead as Hellner. She was clearly thrilled, not least by the roar of the crowd and huge reception she received from her fans on home turf.

The Olympic gold medalist claimed it was her most exciting victory ever, winning the first available championship on the first day of competition at Ski-VM in Oslo. “When I was standing at the starting line, I could hear the public yelling ‘Marit, Marit,'” she told NRK. “It was incredibly fun to meet their expectations.”

Bjørgen shared the women’s winners’ platform with Arianna Follis of Italy, who took silver, and Petra Majdic of Slovenia, who placed third.

Bjørgen, who had a spotty record a few years ago, has been full of confidence this season and said herself that she’d “been smiling all day.” Congratulations poured in, with the royal family in their box looking on.

“This is what I’ve been dreaming about,” Bjørgen told NRK.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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