Norway’s skiing powerhouse Marit Bjørgen was two-for-two on Saturday, winning her second gold medal in her second event at the world championships in Oslo. Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland edged out Norway’s Therese Johaug for the silver, but Norwegian fans were delighted with two of their own on the winners’ platform.
The women had to tackle thick fog and poor visibility throughout the 15-kilometer pursuit, with a change of skis and styles after the first 7.5 kilometers. It also started snowing heavily midway through the race.
The waxing crews preparing Bjørgen’s skis, though, did what’s widely viewed as an excellent job in preparing for the challenging conditions on the trails, and Bjørgen gave them much of the credit for her victory. “I just have to thank the guys in the stalls, they were fantastic today,” she told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).
“This is just incredible, I don’t think I’ve ever had such good skis,” Bjørgen continued. She later gave herself some credit, too. Asked why she’s so much better than most of the other skiers, Bjørgen said “it’s hard to say,” adding that “I’ve just been training very hard” and that “I’m in really good shape.”
She was smiling again from ear to ear as she entered the stadium and raced for the finish line. She waved to spectators cheering in the grandstands, which had an unusual number of empty places perhaps because of the poor weather or the transport chaos faced by thousands of spectators who had a hard time getting up to Holmenkollen Saturday morning.
Kowalczyk of Poland was considered Bjørgen’s toughest competition and claimed the silver medal. She later claimed that Johaug had tried to block her efforts to follow Bjørgen several times during the last few kilometers. “But I would have done the same myself,” Kowalczyk said after the race. The women’s performance was undoubtedly well-received nonetheless by Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, who was in the grandstands and had Poland’s prime minister as his special guest on Saturday.
Johaug had been challenging Kowalczyk for the silver but fell behind at the end, as Kowalczyk was just so strong. Johaug denied she tried to block Kowalczyk. “I don’t know what she means by that, it wasn’t my intention,” Johaug told NRK. “But I was ahead of her in the track.”
Not at the end, though. Johaug felt she was in good shape despite “only” taking the bronze, and looked forward to the next women’s skiing event, the 10-kilometer race at 1pm on Monday, when the sun was forecast to be shining again.