Therese Johaug is known for screaming with joy when she wins individual gold medals in international competition, and the crowds at the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Italy could hear her once again on Tuesday. She collapsed in shrieking jubilation after crossing the finish line first in the women’s 10-kilometer free technique (FT) race.
Some find her screaming offensive, others claim it reflects the genuine thrill of victory. “After so many hours and hours of training, this is what counts,” gasped Johaug, after also running over to the crews who’d prepared her skis to thank them. They had performed perfectly for her.
Johaug kept the Norwegian gold rush going, finishing just ahead of fellow Norwegian Marit Bjørgen who had to settle for silver and admitted afterwards that “Therese was better than me today.” Bjørgen already has won two gold medals in the World Championships so far, in the sprint and 15-kilometer events.
On Wednesday the two top Norwegian skiers were also crediting each other for their strong performances. As newspaper Aftenposten noted, they train together and motivate each other and even live in the same block of flats on a hillside just west of Oslo’s Holmenkollen winter sports arena. They also visit each other often.
“It has meant an incredible amount,” Johaug told Aftenposten. “Marit and I, and the others on the team, are very good at getting the most out of each other’s strengths. Instead of avoiding one another and training hard by ourselves, we train hard together. That way we push each other.”
Johaug said the Norwegian women, who are sweeping this year’s World Championships once again, also tolerate losing to one another, “because we know we have different strengths. That means we can all do our best.”
That can also explain why Bjørgen wasn’t a sore loser on Tuesday, when she finished second in the 10-kilometer FT race at Val di Fiemme. Yulia Tchekaleva of Russia won the bronze medal. Bjørgen seemed as happy as Johaug, although she didn’t resort to screaming.
Bjørgen had led during the first five kilometers of the race and seemed assured of another gold, until Johaug stormed forward and ended up skiing the 10 kilometers in just 25 minutes and 23 seconds. Bjørgen’s time was 25:33 and Tchekaleva’s 25:56, according to the championships’ official web site.
Bjørgen agreed that the Norwegian skiers are “good friends” without the inter-team rivalry found on some national squads. “We meet often also outside the training sessions,” Bjørgen told Aftenposten. The friendship and professional support comes despite, or maybe even because of, an eight-year age difference between Bjørgen, who’s 32, and Johaug, who’s 24. Bjørgen has said earlier that she’s keen to help the younger women on the squad whom she hopes will take over her role as Norway’s ski queen.
On Tuesday, though, it was Johaug who reigned over the winners’ platform and already was looking forward to the final events in the World Championships that run through Sunday. The women finish up on Saturday with the tough 30-kilometer race, following the relay on Thursday.
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
Please support our news service. Readers in Norway can use our donor account. Our international readers can click on our “Donate” button: