Marit Bjørgen, the Norwegian cross-country skier who was diagnosed with heart trouble just two months ago, won her latest gold medal on the opening day of the Nordic World Ski Championships at Val di Fiemme in Italy on Thursday. She literally jumped for joy.
“I’m incredibly glad,” Bjørgen told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) after being fastest in the women’s sprint event. “I have to admit that I hadn’t believed (I could do this) myself.”
Bjørgen told NRK she’d been in tears just a few days ago when she had to drop out of a World Cup event in Davos that was widely viewed as a dress rehearsal for the World Championships.
“I wasn’t at all confident of what kind of shape I was in,” Bjørgen said. “I had some tough days in Davos, I think, and I don’t know why. That’s what makes sports so interesting. If it had been a normal World Cup, I wouldn’t have thought so much about it. But when it was so close to the World Championships, you maybe get extra tense.”
Her coach, Egil Kristiansen, said it was “seldom that an athlete comes to me a half-hour before the start of a race and is crying.” Bjørgen confirmed she was in tears over the frustration: “Yeah, I was, because I wanted so badly to race but I felt I wasn’t ready for it.”
On Thursday Bjørgen was back in high spirits after winning gold, even though she was unusually slow in her preliminary run, apparently because of a bad choice of skis. But then she switched and was in full control, while arch rival Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland fell.
Fellow Norwegian Maiken Caspersen Falla took the bronze and Ida Ingemarsdotter of Sweden won silver while Bjørgen’s reward came in the form of gold, 10 years after she won her first World Championship gold medal in the spring, also at Val di Fiemme.
She’s had a major and relatively quick recovery from the frightening days just before Christmas, when she wasn’t feeling well, was sent to hospital and diagnosed with an erratic heartbeat. That ruined her plans to compete in, and hopefully win, the Tour de Ski, the only major event she hasn’t aced. Doctors ordered her to take it easy, though, and she didn’t start training again until after the holidays.
Now she’s fired up for the rest of the World Championships, which run through March 3. Fellow Norwegian skiing star Petter Northug didn’t do as well on opening day, placing second behind Nikita Kriukov of Russia in the men’s sprint. Northug did win the silver medal, though, and claimed he was especially glad to beat Swedish rival Emil Jönsson. That, he confirmed, was almost more important than taking beating Kriukov.
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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