Cross-country star Yegorova saves her best until last
With Bjørn Dæhlie dominating the men’s cross-country races, the women’s events also featured an athlete who came to Lillehammer with a huge reputation. Lyubov Yegorova had won three gold medals and two silvers when she competed in the Olympics for the first time two years earlier.
She subsequently added four medals at the 1993 World Championship and had been named World Cup champion. In short, she was the world’s dominant female cross-country skier – but could she maintain that brilliance in Lillehammer?
The answer, emphatically, was yes. She started with a strong showing in the 15km, finishing second to Italian Manuela Di Centa. The two athletes went head-to-head once again in the 5km – a high-intensity race that saw the two women battle it out for top spot on the podium. This time, Yegorova took the gold, crossing the finishing line nearly 20 secs quicker than her rival.
There was a brief respite before the two resumed their rivalry in the pursuit. Having set the fastest time in the classic 5km, Yegorova held a strong advantage and, despite seeing Di Centa cut her lead, she took her second gold with a lead of eight secs.A third gold came in the 4 x 5km relay. The result surprised few, with Russia extending an unbeaten run that stretched back five years, but the race itself was memorable. Norway, cheered on by the home supporters, led throughout the race until Yegorova started the anchor leg for Russia. She quickly caught Norway’s Anita Moen and, producing a superb display of speed and style, overtook her before opening a gap of 30 secs. It was her sixth Olympic gold medal, and the last of a glittering career.