Marit Bjørgen retained her throne as Norway’s undisputed ski queen on Sunday after finally winning the Tour de Ski at Val di Fiemme, but was reduced to tears over her latest victory. Martin Johnsrud Sundby, meanwhile, won the men’s Tour de Ski as the Norwegian dominance of international Nordic skiing competition continued.
“I thought maybe it was too late (to win Tour de Ski),” the 34-year-old Bjørgen cried to Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “But it wasn’t.” She’s been plagued by illness and injury in previous years during the Tour de Ski week, so it was the only major event she’d never won before. The multiple World Cup, World Championship and Olympic winner has thus won everything there is to win as she crowned her Nordic skiing career.
Bjørgen beat her friendly rival and teammate Therese Johaug, who won the tough weeklong string of ski races in various locations in the Alps last year and placed second this year. Heidi Weng of Norway was third and thrilled to be on the podium, but sobbed with joy to NRK as well over Bjørgen’s achievement.
With Sundby topping the winners’ platform for the men, and Petter Northug placing second, the suddenly controversial Norwegian dominance of cross-country skiing was complete. A Russian skier, Evgeniy Belov, was the only non-Norwegian to win a spot after the rough week of skiing events.
Sundby also won Tour de Ski last year, but claimed “this is my greatest victory ever” as he bellowed at the finish line on Sunday. “This was more fun than winning last year,” he said. “There was stronger participation and it was much tighter this year.”
Northug had led the pack earlier but Sundby prevailed. Northug, who performed poorly last season and then went on a drunk-driving spree afterwards, was pleased: “This was a big day for me. I managed to defend the position I have had.” Some speculate that Northug, who just turned 29, will eventually concentrate on long-distance races and nurture his remaining commercial sponsorships instead of national team participation that can limit them.