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Bjoergen wins women’s 15K skiathlon at Sochi Games
Bjoergen won the women’s 15-kilometer skiathlon in the opening cross-country event at the Sochi Olympics on Saturday to earn her fourth career gold on an emotional day for the close-knit Norwegian team. It was dealing with the news that Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen’s brother had died a day earlier.
The Norwegian Olympic team said Jacobsen’s brother died “suddenly and unexpectedly” on Friday, but did not provide any details.
Heidi Weng won the bronze medal with teammate Therese Johaug in fourth. Charlotte Kalla of Sweden prevented a Norwegian medal sweep by taking the silver after a two-way contest against Bjoergen in the stadium.
Weng won a three-way sprint for the bronze medal, coming 13.2 seconds behind the Bjoergen. During the flower ceremony on the podium, both Bjoergen and Weng were in tears and Weng was still crying when talking to reporters.
Bjoergen entered the race as a big favorite and didn’t disappoint. She was the most successful athlete of the Vancouver Games with three gold medals, a silver and a bronze, and she showed right away she has the ability to match that feat in Sochi.
Having said this week she’d be happy with only one gold, she now has to set a more ambitious target.
“One gold was my goal, so now I can relax a little bit,” Bjoergen said. “I think anything is possible.”
With a group of five skiers staying together until the last kilometer, Kalla tried to pull away in the final uphill section before the sprint. Only Bjoergen was able to match her pace going up the hill, and Kalla then had no answer for the Norwegian’s strong finish.
At 33 years and 324 days, Bjoergen became the oldest woman to win an individual Olympic cross-country gold, beating Stefania Belmondo’s record of 33 years and 27 days. The Italian won the 15K freestyle at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games. She also became her country’s most successful female Olympian of all time, having shared the record with figure skater and actress Sonja Henie, who won three golds between 1928 and ‘36.
By David Keene
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