4th gold for Bjoergen at Nordic worlds
Marit Bjoergen paraded her way toward a fourth gold medal at the Nordic world skiing championships on Thursday, skiing alone the entire anchor leg as a dominant Norway easily won the women's relay.
Meanwhile, the Austrians again dominated ski jumping, with Gregor Schlierenzauer and Thomas Morgenstern taking gold and silver on the large hill.
In the women's 4x5-kilometre race, Norway took full control on the second leg and Bjoergen had more than a 30-second lead when she set out on the anchor leg. That made the finish little more than a victory lap for the triple Olympic champion, who still managed to increase the lead slightly as she was cheered on by the massive crowd at the famed Holmenkollen arena. She had plenty of time to grab a Norwegian flag to wave on the final straight before crossing the line in 53 minutes 30.0 seconds.
"I had a dream to take the flag and I'm very happy to have had the chance," Bjoergen said. "But I really have to thank the three other girls for this gold."
Sweden took silver ahead of Finland, after Charlotte Kalla pulled away from Krista Lahteenmaki on the final leg.
Norway raced with the same team that won gold at the Vancouver Olympics, with Vibeke Skofterud and Therese Johaug skiing the classical-style portion and Kristin Stoermer Steira taking the first freestyle leg.
Skofterud was only fourth after the first leg, trailing 10 seconds behind Italy's Marianna Longa. But Johaug put Norway ahead for good, drawing level less than halfway through the stage and then opening up an 8.7-second lead over Sweden at the second exchange.
Stoermer Steira then whizzed out of the stadium and into the woods, disappearing out of sight of her rivals and into the thick fog that has covered Holmenkollen for the last few days.
"A 10-second lead can be hard because your opponents can keep an eye on you," Steira said. "But I was a bit fortunate today, the fog meant they couldn't see me on the hills."
By the time she handed over to Bjoergen, the lead was a full 34.7 seconds, meaning the standout could conserve some energy for Saturday's 30K freestyle event.
"We are together 250 days a year and have had this goal for a long time," Bjoergen said. "I'm very happy we did it."
Sweden finished 36.1 seconds behind, with Kalla and teammate Ida Ingemarsdotter earning their second medal in two days after they won Wednesday's team sprint.
"I think me and Charlotte are in a flow now," said Ingemarsdotter, who raced the first leg of the relay. "We're smiling and having fun and doing what we like to do, which is to ski fast."
Finland was 59.8 seconds back in third. Lahteenmaki started the last leg just one second behind Kalla but was powerless to prevent the Olympic 10K freestyle champion from pulling away.
Bjoergen, who also has four world titles from previous championships, has won all four of her races this time. She skipped the team sprint to save energy, but can still match Russian skier Elena Vaelbe's feat of five golds from 1997 if she wins the 30K.
"The 30K is going to be a hard race," Bjoergen said. "Justyna (Kowalczyk) and some of the other girls want the gold medal too, but I will do everything and hopefully be strong on the day."
Austria's ski jumpers can seemingly do no wrong at the worlds, and Schlierenzauer showed that the latest generation was relishing the challenge of carrying on the country's all-star tradition.
Schlierenzauer landed jumps of 130 and 134.5 metres for a total of 277.5 points to win over Morgenstern and Switzerland's Simon Ammann.
"It's a pleasure for me to sit here with world champions to my left and right," said Schlierenzauer. "It's unbelievable for such a young athlete."
Morgenstern led after the first round as he chased a third gold medal to add to his individual and team golds on the normal hill.
Schlierenzauer, who had already caught the eye with recent World Cup wins, began the final round in fourth place after a 130-metre first-round jump.
Ammann, eighth after the first round, flew back into contention with a 134.5-metre leap to briefly take the lead.
He dedicated his bronze medal to countryman Andreas Kuettel, the former world champion who retires from ski jumping after Oslo.
"It was a really special competition for me and the whole team," said Ammann. "I feel enormously satisfied to win a medal."
A two-time champion at the Vancouver Olympics, Ammann stayed in front until Schlierenzauer composed himself at the top of the hill before landing a 134.5-metre jump of his own.
"At the top of the hill I just thought that I have to enjoy this great atmosphere at Holmenkollen," said Schlierenzauer.
Morgenstern's last jump added 131 metres, which he thought was enough to seal gold after his 133 first-round effort.
"I knew after my last jump that it would be very close with Gregor," said Morgenstern. "Maybe it was just a bit too safe."
But the younger of the Austrians defeated his peer by 0.3 points.