Bjoergen leads Norway sweep in 30K cross-country

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 22, 2014 at 7:08 am •  Published: February 22, 2014

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — If this was Marit Bjoergen's last Olympic race, she couldn't have scripted a better finish.

A sixth gold, two teammates on either side of the podium, and no one above her in the history of the Winter Games.

Bjoergen became the most decorated female Winter Olympian in history Saturday by leading a Norwegian sweep in the women's 30-kilometer cross-country ski race at the Sochi Games. It was her third gold of these Olympics and 10th medal overall — putting her ahead of Russian cross-country skier Lyubov Egorova, who had six golds and three silvers.

Being surrounded by her teammates — silver medalist Therese Johaug and bronze-winner Kristin Stoermer Steira — seemed to mean more to Bjoergen than her own record.

"It's an incredible day for our team," said Bjoergen, who also won three golds in Vancouver four years ago. "When I'm finished skiing I can think about how many medals I have. But right now it doesn't mean much."

This may well have been her farewell to the sport's biggest stage, though. The 33-year-old Bjoergen said she'll make a decision after next year's world championships about whether to continue skiing, but doubted that she'll be in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in 2018.

"Four years is a long time, and I'm not getting younger," Bjoergen said. "I'm also thinking about having a family. I don't want to do this at 90 percent."

Bjoergen's total medal haul is six golds, three silvers and a bronze. She also has 12 world championship gold medals. Two other women — Stafania Belmondo of Italy and Soviet skier Raisa Smetanina — also have 10 Olympic medals in cross-country, but fewer golds. Soviet speedskater Lidia Skoblikova had six golds, but no other medals.

The Norwegian women finally displayed their dominance of the sport as Bjoergen, Johaug and Steira pulled away after the 10K mark and then built a gap of over a minute to the rest of the field. Steira had to drop back on the final uphill climb and Bjoergen then pulled away from Johaug heading into the stadium and sprinted alone toward the finish.

"I knew that I am stronger than them in the sprints, so I was waiting for them to attack on the last climb," Bjoergen said. "Therese upped her speed and I just followed her, then I passed her."