Norway’s superwomen had to face unusual defeat at the Nordic World Ski Championships in Falun on Tuesday, losing badly to Swedish skiing star Charlotte Kalla and two Americans. “Today we were not good enough,” the Norwegian in charge of the team’s ski preparation, Knut Nystad, told state broadcaster NRK.
The Norwegians have dominated the World Championships just like they did at the Olympics last winter and in most international competition in recent years. But on Tuesday, they slid to such unknown depths as 22nd place for Heidi Weng and an astonishing 31st place for Marit Bjørgen in the women’s 10-kilometer free technique race at Falun.
Weng’s uncharacteristically dismal performance was actually the best among the Norwegian women, while Bjørgen, who won gold on opening day and had been favoured to win the race, all but shocked spectators with her lowly finish. Therese Johaug, who won gold on Saturday, placed 27th and silver medalist Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen was 33rd.
The poor showing was largely blamed on bad waxing of their skis, and Nystad admitted as much, while commentators called Tuesday’s race a “fiasco” for Norway. Bjørgen was reluctant to blame bad skis, claiming the Norwegians “didn’t have the margins on our side” in weather that amounted to a snowstorm.
“Several of us felt like we were in good shape, but we didn’t have optimal skis today,” she said. “That’s part of the game.”
‘Oh my God!’
As the Norwegians retreated to the sidelines, Kalla of Sweden could finally claim the gold medal she’d yearned for. She was followed by Americans Jessica Diggins and Caitlin Compton Gregg in second and third place, while another Swede, Maria Rydqvist took fourth.
Kalla was delighted and the Americans, who said they’d “never ever” won individual medals in a distance race before, were thrilled to get two in one day.
“It was like, ‘oh my God!'” Diggins told NRK. “I can’t believe it. I don’t believe it.” Gregg said that she knew “we had it in us,” but it was still a shock win in a sport that doesn’t get much attention back home in the US.
“There may be a party tonight,” Diggins said with a laugh, “but we have to get ready for the relay (set for Thursday). We aim to do just as well as we did today.”