Marit Björgen, Norway’s golden girl
The seemingly unstoppable Marit Björgen came away from Vancouver 2010 with more medals than any other athlete (three golds, one silver and one bronze) and has 12 world crowns to her name. She recently extended her record number of FIS Cross-Country World Cup wins to 62. In a rich vein of form, she is expected to scale even greater heights in Sochi.
(c) IOC/J. Huet
Nicknamed ‘Gull-Marit’ (‘Golden Marit’) in her homeland, Marit Björgen is the greatest cross-country skier that Norway has ever produced. Her dominant triumphs in the 15km freestyle and sprint events in Davos (SUI) in December 2013, which extended her record number of FIS World Cup victories to 62, only served to confirm that the impressive athlete is in the form of her life. “It’s a great feeling. Those wins were at altitude, pretty much the same as in Sochi. So I’m in good shape with the Games just round the corner,” she says.
Björgen took to the international stage in 1999 at the age of 19. Her first appearance at the Olympic Winter Games was at Salt Lake City 2002, while her maiden World Cup success came a few months later, on 26 October, in the individual sprint in Dusseldorf. Later that season, in February 2003, she captured her first world title in the same event in Val di Fiemme (ITA), and has not stopped winning since. Her physical strength and dynamism meant that her initial successes came in the sprint events, which produced her first ten victories, but from 2004 onwards the Norwegian gradually began to make a mark on longer distances, and her presence on the podium in those events soon became a common sight.
At the top of her game
Björgen has amassed 19 World Championship medals in total, clinching three further golds in Oberstdorf (GER) in 2005, four in Oslo-Holmenkollen in 2011 and another four on her return to Val di Fiemme in 2013. She has also remained a serious contender in the World Cup, claiming top spot overall in 2005, 2008 and 2012 and earning six small crystal globes, as well as finishing in the top three 95 times in individual events and 35 times in team events. However, she had to wait until 2010 to get her hands on an Olympic gold. In fact she topped the podium no less than three times in Vancouver.
Björgen’s first appearance at the Games in Turin in 2006 was disrupted by stomach pains, but that setback did not prevent her from obtaining a silver medal in the 10km classical. Four years later, at Whistler Olympic Park, she started out by scooping a bronze in the 10km freestyle, before winning golds in the sprint, 2 x 7.5km pursuit and 4 x 5km relay events, and rounding off with a silver in the 30km classical, where she was pipped to the post by Poland’s Justyna Kowalczyk. The Scandinavian’s medal haul of five was more than any other athlete in Vancouver. This unprecedented success saw her rewarded with the Holmenkollen Medal, Norwegian skiing’s most prestigious accolade.
(c) IOC/C. Furlong
“The 2009-2010 season was just fantastic, as I won five Olympic medals,” she recalls. “The following year, in February 2011, I achieved a dream by collecting four golds on my home patch, at the Holmenkollen National Arena in Oslo – an amazing experience! In Val di Fiemme in 2013, I managed to repeat my Oslo results. I experienced some of my greatest moments as a skier, but I’m still as hungry as ever. I’ve got Sochi coming up, and that’s followed by the 2015 World Championships in Falun, Sweden.” Currently at the top of her game and with ideal preparations under her belt, the 33-year-old is mentally ready, physically sharp and completely focused on securing further success at Sochi’s Laura Biathlon and Ski Complex in February.