Biathlon leads Norway’s march to the podium in Winter Olympics

Johaug announces this was her last Olympics

Johaug

Photo: Heiko Junge / NTB A happy Therese Johaug holds a Norwegian flag after winning the 30km freestyle, her third gold medal of the Winter Olympics.

MICHAEL KLEINER
Business & Sports Editor
The Norwegian American

If there were leftover pellets in the biathlon stadium, there could have been a 21-gun salute to the biathletes. Some of the best performances at the 24th Winter Olympics in Beijing, Feb. 2–20, came from that arena. Norway once again led the medal tally with 37 medals, an Olympic record 16 gold, eight silver and 13 bronze, falling two short of the Olympic record of 39 it set in 2018 in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Norway’s biathletes led the country’s march to the podium. Among the men’s, women’s, and mixed biathlon, Norway medaled in all but one event. Marte Olsbu Røiseland leads the women’s World Cup standings this season with three gold and two bronze. She ran the first leg of the mixed 4x6km relay in 17:18.6 with 1 miss; won the 7.5km sprint (20:44.3, 0 misses) by 30.9, and the 10km pursuit (34:46.9, 1 miss) by 1:36.5. She was third in 15km Individual and 12km Mass Start.

“To be honest, I don’t know how that happened,” said Røiseland on Olympic.org. “My goal was to win one gold medal. Now I have three and two bronze. It’s just amazing. I’m really proud.”

Veteran Tiril Eckhoff, who entered the Olympics with the most medals for a woman biathlete with five, had a gold (mixed relay), silver (12.5km pursuit), and bronze (10km pursuit).

It was the Bø brothers leading the way on the men’s side. Johannes Thingnes led Norwegian Olympians with four gold and a bronze, while Tarjei earned two gold, a silver, and a bronze. Tarjei ran the third leg of the mixed relay in 15:31.1 and Johannes Thingnes brought it home in 14:43.3. The team’s 1:06:45.6 bested France by 0.9 and Russian Olympic Committee by 1.5. Johannes Thingnes took gold in the 10km sprint (24:00.4, 1 miss) with Tarjei third, the 15km Mass Start (38:14.4, 4 misses), while Tarjei was the second leg and Johannes third in the gold-medal-winning 4×7.5km relay (1:19.50.2 by 27.4 over France).

There were medals left over for Quentin Fillon Maillet (France), who became the first biathlete to earn five medals at one Olympics—until Johannes Thingnes and Røiseland matched it the next day!

Cross-country skiing

This marked Therese Johaug’s first Olympics since 2014. She announced this would be her Olympic finale. All she did was maintain her title as Queen of the Distances, winning gold in the Skiathlon 7.5km+7.5km (44:13.7) by 30.2, the 10km Classic (28:06.3) by 0.4 over Kerttu Niskanen (Finland), and in the last cross-country event of the Olympics, the 30km, Johaug’s time was 1:24:54.0, an amazing 1:43.3 ahead of Jessie Diggins (United States) and 2:33.3 better than bronze medalist Niskanen. At times, it looked like Johaug could have been taking a leisurely ski at Holmenkollen. Tears came to her eyes after crossing the finish line.

“It was a fantastic race. Being able to end my Olympic career with three individual golds is completely raw,” said Johaug, who is the first woman to win all three distance races since 1984. “It has been a long road and a part of my life for the last 15 years and a dream for a long time. Then, there are some emotions that are set in motion when you know that it is the last Olympics for me. I tried to enjoy every second and minute out on the trail.”

Johannes Høsflot Klæbo won two gold medals in sprint (2:58.06) and team sprint classic (19:22.9) one silver in the 4x10km relay and a bronze in the 15km Classic (38:32.3).

Despite Norway’s collection of medals, there were disappointments. Klæbo finished 40th in the 15km+15km Skiathlon and dropped out of the final race, 30km (reduced from 50km due to weather) after 16.8km. Simen Hegstad Krüger took bronze in the 30km. Klæbo and Krüger were the only individual medalists.

Johaug was the only Norwegian woman medalist and didn’t participate in the relays. The absence of Heidi Weng, who tested positive for the coronavirus just before departure, hurt.

Ski jumping

Marius Lindvik won the only ski jumping medal with jumps of 140.5 and 140.0 meters on the large hill. 

Nordic combined

Jørgen Grabaak won three medals, gold in the Team Large Hill/4x5km in 50:45.1, besting Germany by 54.9, and Large Hill/10km with a time of 27:13.3, edging teammate Jens Lurås Oftebro by 0.4 and Akito Watabe (Japan) by 0.6. Grabaak’s silver was in the Normal Hill/10km with a time of 26:08.5, +0.8 behind Vinzenz Geiger (Germany).

Curling

The mixed doubles team of Magnus Nedregotten and Kristin Moen Skaslien started 1-3, won six straight to reach the gold medal match, where Norway lost to Italy 8-5.

Men’s speed skating

Hallgeir Engebråten, with teammates Peder Kongshaug and Sverre Lunde Pedersen, won Team Pursuit gold in 3:38.08, and he added bronze in 5,000m (6:09.88).

Freeski/snowboard

Birk Ruud took gold in Freeski Big Air with 187.75 points while Mons Røisland earned silver in Snowboard Big Air (171.75).

Alpine

Aleksander Aamodt Kilde collected a silver in combined downhill and slalom with a total time of 1:43.12, 0.59 behind Austria’s Johannes Strolz and bronze in Super-G with a time of 1:20.36, 0.42 shy of gold medalist Matthias Mayer (Austria) and 0.38 short of silver medalist Ryan Cochran-Siegle (United States). Sebastian Foss-Solevåg won bronze in slalom (1:44.79), 0.70 behind France’s Clement Noel. 

In parallel, two skiers race each other down the slope in four separate races. The team of Maria Therese Tviberg, Fabian Wilkens Solheim, Thea Louise Stjernesund, and Timon Haugan led fourth-seed Norway to the bronze medal on a tiebreaker against the United States. In the bronze match, Tviberg lost to Paula Moltzan, Solheim beat Tommy Ford, Stjernesund beat Mikaela Shiffrin, then River Radamus beat Haugan, as Haugan was unable to finish. The tiebreaker is combined time.

A message from Sports Editor Michael Kleiner

It was a pleasure to work on the Winter Olympic preview issue and the post-Olympic wrap-up for you.

Too bad we didn’t get to see all the athletes compete. 

Four years ago, after the Pyeongchang Olympics, I wrote about the TV coverage emphasis on figure skating. Some of the same complaints remain. NBC has a mammoth job covering 15 disciplines in 19 days with a 13-hour time difference to the East Coast.

It’s not necessarily a matter of liking or disliking a sport but a matter of equity and fairness in what is covered, especially in prime time, when most people watch. I wonder how many people watched coverage in the middle of the night. Flex the schedule depending on changing circumstances or importance of an event. Since we were watching many events on delay, it would have been easy to switch coverage around.

Figure skating was contested on 11 of 19 days. Judging by the prime-time coverage, you would have thought it was held every day. The doping scandal put more focus on figure skating.

The losers were speed skating and ski jumping. One afternoon, the schedule said there would be speed skating, and it was 10 seconds at the end of the broadcast. Erin Jackson made history by becoming the first Black woman to win a medal in speed skating. I saw only seconds of the race. It was the 500m, she clocked 37.04. NBC couldn’t show 37.04 in prime time. Mass Start was aired on the last day but that was it for speed skating—at least when I was awake. Anybody recall seeing ski jumping?

After the hype for the women’s ice hockey final between the United States and Canada, the game was at 11 p.m. EST. That couldn’t be moved to prime time?

The 2025 Summer Olympics are in Paris, the 2026 Winter Olympics in Milan, Italy. That’s going to feel like local time.

The Russians are coming

A 15-year-old girl, Kamila Valieva, a very good figure skater, became the lightning rod at the Olympics because of yet another doping scandal involving the Russians. Valieva tested positive for doping but was allowed to compete anyway. When she made mistakes in her free skate program, it cost her a shot at the gold medal and left her in tears in a strange scene.

Teammates Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova, who won gold and silver, respectively, didn’t know how to react. Joy for themselves, console Valieva? Among the so-called adults in the room, which one failed Valieva? All her coach said was, “Why did you stop fighting?” Which one told her to take the drug? Why did other Russian skaters not test positive? Should she have even been allowed to continue to compete?

For her own mental health, she should have not competed. The root of the problem is the lax penalty given the Russians for doping. Athletes couldn’t compete for Russia but under Russia Olympic Committee. Where’s the punishment? If there had been an outright ban, we wouldn’t have heard of Kamila Valieva until she was 19.

This article originally appeared in the March 4, 2022, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

Michael Kleiner

Michael Kleiner, business and sports editor, has more than three decades of experience as an award-winning journalist and public relations professional. He has operated his own PR and web design business for small businesses, authors and community organizations in Philadelphia since 1999. Not of Norwegian descent, he lived in Norway for a year with his family at age 11 and has returned as an adult. He is the author of a memoir, Beyond the Cold: An American’s Warm Portrait of Norway, and a member of the Norwegian American Chamber of Commerce Philadelphia. Visit Kleinerprweb.com; beyondthecold.com.

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