Norway’s new cross-country sprint queen
Sochi 2014 Olympic sprint champion and three-time reigning world champion, Norwegian cross-country skier Maiken Caspersen Falla will be looking to defend her title at her third Olympic Winter games at PyeongChang 2018.
Gifted sprinterBorn in Lørenskog in south-east Norway on 13 August 1990, Falla and her twin brother Marius grew up playing a variety of sports, from snowboarding, Alpine skiing, ski jumping, biathlon and cross-country skiing to running, athletics, cycling and handball. Encouraged to always do her best, Falla was already beating the boys on skis and keeping pace with her brother when she was eight. On turning 15, she moved to the ski resort of Hovden to continue her sports studies.
Olympic debutA brilliant junior at both national and international level, Falla made her World Cup debut in November 2008 at the age of 18. Her first podium, a third place finish in Dusseldorf (GER), came a month later in only her second World Cup race. Aged 19, she then earned selection for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games where she reached the quarter-finals of the classic sprint, an event won by Bjørgen. Establishing herself as a regular in Norway’s team sprint line-up, Falla won her first race alongside Bjørgen in Liberec (CZE) in January 2011.
The up-and-coming Norwegian cemented her status as a leading sprinter by finishing third in the classic at the 2013 World Championships in Val di Fiemme (ITA). A year later, she topped that by winning the Olympic freestyle sprint gold in Sochi. “It’s just amazing,” she said after leading her former junior team-mate Ingvild Flugstad Østberg over the line for a Norwegian one-two in Russia. “I still can’t believe I’ve done it. I’ve been dreaming of this since I was three.”
Four world titlesAt the 2015 World Championships a year later in Falun (SWE) Falla once again won classic sprint bronze behind Bjørgen, then went on to join forces with Østberg and land her first world title, in the team sprint. To add to her growing list of honours, Falla won the 2015/16 sprint crystal globe after scoring four wins over the course of the season – two in each style. Then, in February 2017, came her first individual world title in the sprint in Lahti, where, along with Heidi Weng, she also won a second team sprint crown, crushing the competition to win by 5.56 seconds over Russia in silver and 18.39 seconds from the USA in bronze.
Falla won a further world gold in the 4x5km relay, leading out a quartet also comprising Weng, Astrid Jacobsen and Bjørgen, with the Norwegians winning by over a minute from Sweden and Finland to secure their country’s 100th Nordic Ski World Championship gold.
One to watch at PyeongChang 2018
Expectations are high for Falla at her third Winter Games in PyeongChang 2018, when she will have a sprint title to defend as well as potentially going for gold in the team sprint and relay events. Discussing her training regime, Falla said: “I live and train at the right quantity and quality every single day, for only providing world-class results! I know myself well and am confident that my choice is right for me. If it feels right, I change the plan or resting instead of training.
“I must enjoy what I do,” continued the reigning Olympic and world champion. “I have a lot of fun with the training. I have to constantly challenge myself, be challenged and look for details where I can get better. It is also important for me to have a good life outside skiing. It is important to stop occasionally and feel how I really feel and why I do what I do.”