Norwegians claim new medal sweep

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Norwegian skiers and ski jumpers raked in eight more medals at the Nordic World Ski Championships at Val di Fiemme in Italy over the weekend, with the women claiming all three spots on the winners’ platform for the 15-kilometer skiathlon on Saturday. Anders Bardal also won gold for jumping the farthest, and Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg was there to see the medal sweep.

Norwegians took all three spots on the winners' platform after Saturday's 15-kilometer skiathlon: Marit Bjørgen (center) won gold, Therese Johaug won silver and Heidi Weng won bronze. PHOTO: FIS Nordic World Ski Championships/fiemme2013.com

Norwegians took all three spots on the winners’ platform after Saturday’s 15-kilometer skiathlon: Marit Bjørgen (center) won gold, Therese Johaug won silver and Heidi Weng won bronze. PHOTO: FIS Nordic World Ski Championships/fiemme2013.com

Stoltenberg picked a good day to be at the World Championships, where the Norwegians were clearly dominant. Local staff at the organizing committee joked that Val di Fiemme was “turning into a small Norwegian colony” with the “Vikings from the far north dominating” the action.

There wasn’t any more gold for Norway on Sunday after Bardal and skier Marit Bjørgen both won gold medals within hours of each other the day before. The Norwegians had in fact won six medals on Saturday, prompting the organizers to call it an “amazing performance,” even for Norway.

The medal sweep that began on the first day of the Nordic World Ski Championships Trentino Fiemme 2013 led to what some called a relative downturn on Sunday, with skier and ski jumper Magnus Moan bitterly disappointed that his Norwegian team “only” won silver in the men’s combined team event. It was won by the French, with Moan skiing neck-and-neck against Jason Lamy Chappuis in the final leg. Moan lost by four-tenths of a second.

On Monday Moan and all the other athletes could enjoy a day off from competition, with Moan telling newspaper Aftenposten that he planned to relax, taking a tour up to a nearby mountaintop with his parents and hopefully sitting in some sunshine to “recharge batteries” before “concentrating hard” on the last looming competitions.

“We’re only halfway through the World Championships,” Moan told Aftenposten, after his spirits had risen following a phone chat with his wife back home in Norway who’s expecting twins next month. “There are more medals in the pot.”

Norwegian ski jumper Anders Bardal also won gold on Saturday, and by the end of the weekend, Norway's medal count was at 10. PHOTO: FIS Nordic World Ski Championships/fiemme2013.com

Norwegian ski jumper Anders Bardal also won gold on Saturday, and by the end of the weekend, Norway’s medal count was at 10. PHOTO: FIS Nordic World Ski Championships/fiemme2013.com

That seemed to be how Norway’s men’s skiing star Petter Northug was looking at the competition as well, after failing to win any gold so far. He claimed silver in the sprint late last week but made what the team called a “tactical error” on Saturday in the men’s 30-kilometer skiathlon, leaving him in fourth place behind Dario Cologna of Switzerland, who won gold, and Northug’s own teammates Martin Johnsrud Sundby who won silver and Sjur Røthe who won bronze. Sundby called the past few weeks “the best in his life,” because of the run-up to the World Championships and the birth of his first child back home.

Northug wasn’t as sour as might be expected, telling reporters that the 50-kilometer race was likely his biggest chance to win gold later in the World Championships. He also skied in the team sprint on Sunday but Norway’s team didn’t make the final, which was won by Russia, followed by Sweden and Kazakhstan.

Northug claims he’s in good shape and commentators agree he’s not skiing poorly. The tactical error aside on Saturday, he was fast, and on Sunday it was his teammate Pål Golberg who “collapsed” in the semi-final, according to Aftenposten. The good news, perhaps, was that the public liked Northug’s less “bratty,” more “mature” response to the lack of medals, applauding the more humble side he’s been showing and the credit he’s given his competitors. He intends to compete in the men’s relay on Saturday as well as the tough 50-kilometer race on Sunday.

It was Bardal’s gold and the women who grabbed most of the attention during the weekend, with Marit Bjørgen winning her second gold medal, Therese Johaug winning silver and Heidi Weng winning bronze, all with cheering fans and Stoltenberg looking on. The Norwegians even claimed fourth place in the women’s skiathlon as well, with Kristin Størmer Steira running one of her best races, frustrated by the lack of a medal but glad Norway won all four top spots. In Bardal’s case, if was the first time a Norwegian had won a world championship on the “normal” ski jump in 47 years, and he was thrilled as well. The favourite, Gregor Schlierenzauer of Austria had to settle for silver and Peter Prevc of Slovakia won bronze.

Coach Egil Kristiansen summed up Saturday’s performance by calling it nearly as “indescribable” as the Norwegians’ dominance on home turf at the last World Championships at Holmenkollen in Oslo in 2011.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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