Norway’s winter sports stars had a great weekend in various World Cup competition, and few were better than biathlon skier Tora Berger. She was “simply the best,” agreed commentators, while cross-country skiers Marit Bjørgen and Petter Northug chalked up major victories and Norway’s downhill racers flexed their muscles, too.
Even the ski jumpers were somewhat pleased after World Cup events in bitterly cold weather in northern Finland, while the biathlon team also braved cold days in Östersund in Sweden.
Tora Berger shot perfectly on several rounds early on the weekend and not even a stumble on Saturday slowed her down. The 31-year-old biathlon skier from Lesja won the sprint after winning the 15-kilometer individual race as well, and her competitors suffered under Berger’s boldness and technique. She finished more than 15 seconds ahead of her nearest rival on Sunday and was widely being called a “living legend” after a historic triple victory in as many World Cup events.
Cross-country skier Marit Bjørgen, covered up with special tape to protect her face from the cold, was so dominant at World Cup competition in Kuusamo in Finland that her coach reportedly asked her to soften up a bit. She won among other races the five-kilometer free by nearly 23 seconds ahead of the number-two, Kikkan Randall from the US, showing, as newspaper Aftenposten reported, just how good she is. Skiing commentator Odd-Bjørn Hjelmeset, a former champion himself, told TV2 that the 32-year-old Bjørgen is feeling the pressure from younger skiers and that may be what’s further propelling her so far this season. On Sunday she took her 57th World Cup win in the pursuit, leaving arch-rival Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland in the dust along with her own teammates.
Petter Northug, Norway’s men’s champion, also had his face full of tape in the sub-freezing temperatures and icy wind and placed second in the 10-kilometer on Sunday but won the gruelling 50-K on Sunday. He claimed he’d never worked so hard for a victory, Norway’s 340th World Cup win in men’s cross country skiing. He collapsed at the finish line and remained lying on the snow, claiming his feat wasn’t healthy. His coaches weren’t too concerned, though, and celebrated Northug’s 14th individual World Cup win.
The Nordic/cross-country skiers intend to take a break now to train for the Tour de Ski, while ski jumper Magnus Krog was among those also celebrating in Kuusamo. The combined skier-jumper could hop right back up on the winners’ podium with a second place on Saturday, better than the other Norwegian jumpers. Last year’s World Cup leader Anders Bardal ended best among the Norwegians in 10th place, followed by Tom Hilde and Andreas Stjernen.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic in Beaver Creek, downhill racer Aksel Lund Svindal placed second in the Super-G. Both he and fellow Norwegian Kjetil Jansrud could climb the platform on Friday. Their season is just beginning, too.