Marit Bjørgen was the undisputed queen of Vancouver, winning five medals, three of them gold
Norwegian cross-country skier Marit Bjørgen was the undisputed queen of Vancouver, winning five medals, three of them gold – more than any other athlete at the 2010 Winter Games. Bjørgen had won silver medals in both 2002 and 2006, but it was in Vancouver that she emerged as a true cross-country great.
The Norwegian opened her campaign in the 10km freestyle in relatively modest fashion. The race was won in convincing style by Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla, as Bjørgen contented herself with bronze.
Next up was the sprint, which started in dramatic fashion as one of the favourites, Petra Majdič of Slovenia, suffered a crash, breaking four ribs. Bravely, she carried on, even managing to qualify as the fastest loser from the semi-finals. Bjørgen, meanwhile, laid down a clear marker as the fastest qualifier.
The final turned into a close-fought contest between Bjørgen and Poland’s Justyna Kowalczyk, leader of the World Cup standings going into the Games. It was Bjørgen who finally pulled away to win and claim her first Olympic gold. Behind the leading pair, Majdič produced a show of defiance and determination to take bronze despite her injuries.
Bjørgen’s second gold came in the 15km pursuit, which had been split into two 7.5km legs, one classical, the other freestyle. The classic stage was a close-run thing, with Bjørgen leading before being passed by her rivals at the switchover, not that it mattered. Fastest over the freestyle leg, she finished comfortably ahead of the field.
Next was the 4x5km relay. Finland had won the previous two world titles, though their skiers were all short of their best form in Vancouver. Instead, it was the Norwegians, with Bjørgen on the anchor leg, who took victory. The winning margin was so wide that Bjørgen was able to savour the moment, coasting across the line with a Norwegian flag held high in her arms as she celebrated a hat-trick of gold medals.
Bjørgen rounded off her Games with a silver in the 30km, just 0.3 seconds behind Kowalczyk.