Original article from www.fiemme2013.com
After the amazing gold medal in the classic technique sprint, Marit Bjørgen conquers her second gold medal in these World Championships right in front of her prime minister, Jens Stoltenberg. Silver to Therese Johaug, bronze to Heidi Weng.
Marit Bjoergen, Therese Johaug, Heidi Weng and Kristen Stoermer Steira form the amazing "poker of hearts" of Norway, who took the first four places in the 15 km skiathlon for ladies (7.5 km CT + 7.5 km FT). The total domination of the Norwegian team was right under the eyes of everyone: the equipment of the Norwegian Queens was indisputable, with perfect skis both in classic and in free technique, and their physical skills proved to be one step higher than anyone else's.
The race started right on time at 12:45 and it was characterized by a steady pace on the first lap, with the competitors controlling each-other on the first 3.75 km lap. Justyna Kowalczyk, Marit Bjoergen, Therese Johaug, Heidi Weng, Charlotte Kalla and Nicole Fessel (GER) took the leadership of the group, keeping a good pace but without pushing too hard.
After the first lap, the leading group was composed by 20 athletes, with all the favorites for the gold packed up in few seconds. On the second lap in classic technique, Johaug and Kowalczyk started increasing the pace, halving the number of skiers in the «Scandinavian» leading group, composed by all the Norwegians, Krista Lahteenmaki (FIN), Anne Kylloenen (FIN), Kerttu Niskanen (FIN), Charlotte Kalla (SWE) and the Justyna Kowalczyk (POL).
Once they entered once again in the cross-country stadium of Lago di Tesero, it was time to change skis and style. The fastest in switching skis was Kowalczyk, followed by Kalla and all the others.
After changing technique, the Norwegians decided to increase the pace and Bjoergen, Johaug, Weng and Steira attacked the others. The only one who was able to follow the Norwegians was the strong Justyna Kowalczyk, who didn’t seem willing to throw in the towel against the strong Norwegian team. Johaug and Steira did everything in their power to keep up the pace on the steepest climbs of the swirly course of Val di Fiemme, followed by Bjoergen and Kowalczyk. Weng instead stayed behind and just hung on the tails of her team-mates, trying to spare as many energies as possible.
At the start of the last lap, the stadium turned into a red sea, with Norwegian flags waving high over the main stands of Lago di Tesero and «red-dressed» athletes leading the race on the track, with Kowalczyk who didn’t seem in the perfect shape necessary to beat the Viking ladies.
At a couple of kilometers to the finish line, Johaug and Bjoergen increased once again the speed, attacking directly their two team-mates and a very tired Kowalczyk. They gained 20 meters on Steira and Weng, while Kowalczyk lost some meters even on the second Norwegian duo.
On the last hill, Johaug tried the only move she could do to try winning the race and attacked on the hill! Nevertheless, Bjoergen had other plans for the day and increased even more the speed, leaving Johaug behind and entering all alone the final straight of the cross-country stadium, celebrating her 10th World Championships gold, the second in Fiemme 2013.
Behind her, it was a real Norwegian party: a very happy Therese Johaug took the silver and started celebrating with the winner of the day, while Heidi Weng conquered the bronze, leaving Kristin Stoermer Steira off the podium. After the Norwegian poker, it was time for Justyna Kowalczyk to cross the finish line, followed by Charlotte Kalla, Yulia Tchekaleva, Krista Lahteenmaki, Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen and Masako Ishida.
The fact that 50% of the top-10 features a Norwegian passport explains in itself the total domination of this country in the field of international cross-country.
"I'm in very good shape and the ski-tracks are incredible. Now, I won't have the possibility to party too much, because I need to recover for the race due on next tuesday, but I'm very satisfied with this results. My tactic today was quite simple: I wanted to follow the others and just spare energies for the finish. In the end, I was able to follow this tactic exactly as planned. The fact that four Norwegians closed in the first four position is just amazing!" said Bjoergen right after the race.
Indeed, it is! The fact that all this happened right under the eyes of the Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg increases even more the importance of a sports performance that highlights the strenght of this Scandinavian country in the field of international cross-country. Stoltenberg had also the honour of awarding the flowers to "his" champions during the flower ceremony scheduled right after the race, turning the ceremony in a true Norwegian ritual right in the heart of the Dolomites.
Congratulations Norway, have fun celebrating these medals!
Ladies - 15 km Skiathlon 7.5km CT + 7.5km FT:
1) Marit Bjoergen (NOR) 39'04" - GOLD MEDAL
2) Therese Johaug (NOR) 39'07" - SILVER MEDAL
3) Heidi Weng (NOR) 39'19" - BRONZE MEDAL
4) Kristin Stoermer Steira (NOR) 39'20"
5) Justyna Kowalczyk (POL) 39'31"
6) Charlotte Kalla (SWE) 39'45"
7) Yulia Tchekaleva (RUS)
8) Krista Lahteenmaki (FIN) 39'53"
9) Astrid Jacobsen (NOR) 40'10"
10) Masako Ishida (JPN) 40'11"
Complete results are available here.