Bjørgen’s back in winning form

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Norwegian ski queen Marit Bjørgen made a triumphant return to the ski trails over the weekend, a month after suffering an irregular heartbeat that forced her withdrawal from this year’s Tour de Ski. She and her teammates dominated World Cup competition at La Clusaz in France once again.

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 after an earlier victory in her brilliant career. Now she’s gearing up for another World Championship, putting her heart trouble firmly behind her. PHOTO: NRK/newsinenglish.no

Bjørgen claimed her 58th victory in World Cup competition by winning the women’s 10-kilometer race on Saturday. On Sunday she and her teammates won the women’s relay.

She’d made it clear she didn’t want any special treatment, and both she and the coach of the national team had admitted they were nervous about her debut after the frightening heart problems.

“This will be like a new start for Marit,” coach Egil Kristiansen told newspaper Aftenposten before Saturday’s race. “But she’s in good shape and she’ll fight her way back to the top. I’m quite sure she’ll put her mark on the race.”

She certainly did. Despite difficult conditions with temperatures right at the freezing point, she ran the 10 kilometers in around 27 minutes and beat her teammate Therese Johaug, who finished second, and arch rival Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland, who finished third.

“I got the answers I needed and this victory means a lot, because it’s a long time since I’ve competed,” Bjørgen said after her race since December 2. “This shows that what I’ve been doing at home, while the others were out competing, was good. This victory is one of my most important in a long time.”

Kristiansen said Bjørgen was confident that competing isn’t dangerous. She underwent massive tests after being admitted to hospital in Norway just before Christmas and got a green light to continue her skiing career. She kept training as normal even though she wasn’t allowed to take part in the demanding Tour de Ski.”We’ve been carrying on as normal, she hasn’t wanted any special treatment and then she doesn’t get it,” Kristiansen said.

Conflict with the Swedes
The weekend victories boosted her self-confidence heading into the World Championships later this season and kept the the women’s Norwegian team on top at a time when conflict broke out around the men’s team. Sunday’s men’s relay in La Clusaz ended with complaints over a maneuver by Norwegian skier Sjur Røthes that left Marcus Hellner of Sweden feeling hindered. Norway went on to win the relay.

The Swedes filed a protest which the jury rejected, prompting a Swedish TV commentator to further complain that Norway seemed to have an advantage with the jury because of Norway’s dominance in the sport. That brought a strong protest in return from Norwegian coach Trond Nystad, who called the Swedish complaint “idiotic.”

Others called the conflict between the Swedes and Norwegians “natural” in the run-up to the World Championships.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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