Swedish cross-country skier Charlotte Kalla secured the first gold medal of the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 on Saturday 10 February, winning the women’s 7.5km + 7.5km skiathlon by a comfortable margin from Norwegian legend Marit Bjørgen.
The Swede won in style, making a break midway through the last of the four laps to cross the line 7.8 seconds clear of Bjørgen, who made all the early running but came up short in her bid to win the event for a third time running. Finland’s Krista Parmakoski completed the podium, with Sweden’s Ebba Andersson just out of the medals in fourth.
Golden hat-trick for Kalla
A 10km freestyle gold medallist at Vancouver 2010 and a 4x5km relay winner at Sochi 2014, Kalla is the first female Swedish athlete in her sport to win three Olympic titles. A skiathlon silver medallist behind Bjørgen four years ago, the 30-year-old Kalla now has six Olympic medals to her name, also a national women’s cross-country skiing record.
“It means a lot,” said the victorious Swede afterwards. “I was quite nervous today and the Olympics is something I have focused on for a long, long time. It’s felt great during the season but I know everyone wants to be in shape at the Olympics. It was really exciting and fun to compete today.
On the finish line. I did not want to look back. I just wanted to focus and keep pushing all the time. I felt so happy crossing the line but also relieved. Most of all, though, it was pure joy.Charlotte Kalla Sweden
Consolation for Bjørgen
Two-time defending champion Bjørgen was aiming to become the first cross-country skier, male or female, to win three Olympic gold medals in one individual event and the first woman to collect seven Olympic gold medals in cross-country skiing.
The 37-year-old Norwegian legend had to content herself with another record, however; her silver took her medal tally to 11, making her the most decorated female Winter Olympian of all time.
I am very happy to take a medal in my last Olympics and still to be there. Charlotte was stronger than me, but I am happy with silver.Marit Bjørgen Norway
“I should have been more aware when Charlotte was attacking. She was too tough for me, so I think that silver was the best for me.”
The indefatigable Bjørgen has designs on returning to the podium at PyeongChang 2018: “I am here to take medals. It is my fifth Olympics and I am happy to be here at my age.”