Speculation has flown in Norway over whether champion skier Marit Bjørgen would retire from professional racing at the end of this season. She’s now won all there is to win in her sport and could quit while she’s on top, but she proved once again that she’s no quitter.
Bjørgen, age 35, confirmed this week that she’ll be back on the ski trails next winter and maybe even after that. One commentator claimed she could keep skiing until 2020, when she’ll turn 40. She’s simply in such great shape, that barring injury, it would be no problem. Her coaches and teammates on the national team were delighted by her decision to keep going.
“Marit is a pillar of Norwegian cross-country skiing,” said Åge Skinstad, the outgoing chief of the national ski association Norges Skiforbund.
Bjørgen herself says she just enjoys skiing and racing so much that she doesn’t want to give it up.
“I would have quit after Holmenkollen (the last World Cup event of the season, in Oslo) if I was tired of it all,” Bjørgen told Trondheim newspaper Adresseavisen. It was in her home district of Trøndelag that she made her plans public, during the annual meeting of the local ski association for veteran racers in Trondheim, Trøndersk Skilaug.
“But I just had to be 100 percent certain,” she added. She ultimately decided to compete next year as well, after some long talks with her partner Fred Børre Lundberg, and said she’ll then take it “one year at a time.” She wouldn’t promise whether she’ll aim to take part in another Winter Olympics, in 2018, but noted that “three years go by quickly.”
Bjørgen has won six Olympic gold medals, three silvers and one bronze during her career, plus 14 World Championship gold medals, five silvers and three bronze. She’s claimed 17 national championships and finished this season as the overall World Cup winner, plus she won this year’s Tour de Ski for the first time.
So what’s left? She said her main goals next year will be winning the Tour de Ski again along with another new tour event in Canada. After this weekend’s Skarverenn, a traditional after-Easter race in the mountains of central Norway, she plans to take a few weeks of holiday in the US. Training for next year’s season starts on May 1.