Bjørgen, Norway break OL medal records

Marit Bjørgen’s five medals make her the all-time winningest Winter Olympian, as Norway shatters its personal best—and tops the US record from 2010—with 39 medals

Marit Bjørgen

Photo: Hans Arne Vedlog / Dagbladet
Marit Bjørgen is hoisted by her teammates after winning her eighth Olympic gold medal, becoming the most decorated Winter Olympian of all time.

Michael Kleiner
The Norwegian American

Marit Bjørgen grabbed the Norwegian flag before the finish line. While racers are never supposed to take a race for granted, Bjørgen could afford the confidence. Leading by nearly two minutes in the 30km cross-country mass start, Feb. 25, the last event of the Pyeongchang Olympics, there was no need to check on her back. She glided the rest of the way, flag in her hand, poles raised, cheering. She knelt down and put her face in her hands. Teammates lifted Bjørgen in the air, still holding the flag. She didn’t need to let go, as she would be the obvious flagbearer in that evening’s closing ceremony.

Entering her fifth Olympics, Bjørgen was already the most-decorated female winter Olympian with 10 medals. She needed three to tie Norwegian biathlete Ole Einar Bjørndalen and cross-country skier Bjørn Dæhlie as all-time Winter Olympian. Experts had reservations before the Olympics when Bjørgen said she wanted to participate in six events. The 37-year-old won five medals to become the leader with 15, and the gold in the 30km was her eighth, tying Bjørndalen and Dæhlie for most gold.

Bjørgen was part of an amazing Olympics for Norway, which earned a record 39 medals, breaking America’s record of 37 in Vancouver in 2010. It was 13 more medals than Norway’s previous high of 26 in Lillehammer in 1994 and Sochi in 2014. Krista Pärmäkoski of Finland easily won silver in the 30km, and Sweden’s Stina Nillsson nudged Norway’s Ingvild Flugstad Østberg for bronze or Norway would have had 40 medals.

“Doing this in my last Olympic run is special,” Bjørgen told Dagbladet. “There are a lot of emotions right now. It’s great for me to be a flag bearer. It’s really nice to end your career in this way, winning gold and being Norway’s flag bearer. It’s a perfect ending. I’m here with 15 Olympic medals. It’s strange to think about. In my head I’m just Marit from little Rognes. It’s fun to create history and look back on this when my career is over.”

Accolades came from fellow skiers, Prime Minister Erna Solberg and the men whose record she broke. “Just congratulations for a wonderful person and skier,” Bjørndalen told Dagbladet. “I’m proud of being a Norwegian today.”

“She is Norway’s most well-behaved and boldest mom. I am very impressed. Congratulations so much from Bjørn,” Dæhlie texted Dagbladet from Switzerland.

Marit Bjørgen

Photo: Bjørn Langsem / Dagbladet
Bjørgen didn’t wait to cross the finish line before grabbing the Norwegian flag.

Here’s the road to the medals in the last 10 days.

Alpine Skiing
Aksel Lund Svindal and Kjetil Jansrud took one-two in the men’s downhill. Svindal, 35, became the oldest Olympic gold medalist in Alpine skiing.

Mikaela Shiffrin, 22-year-old American sensation, got off to a good start with gold in the giant slalom. Norway’s Ragnhild Mo­winckel took the silver.

Svindal and Jansrud seemed like they were going to switch podium positions in the men’s super G. Strong runs by Matthias Mayer of Austria and Beat Feuz of Switzerland dropped Jansrud to bronze and Svindal to fifth. Norway had won the last four Olympic gold medals in the event.

Shiffrin finished a disappointing fourth in the slalom, her best event, behind Sweden’s Frida Hansdotter. Ester Ledecka of the Czech Republic was the surprise winner in the Super G.

Henrik Kristoffersen earned silver to Austrian star Marcel Hirscher in men’s giant slalom.

Lindsey Vonn, 33, became the oldest woman to medal in alpine skiing at the Olympics, when she took bronze in the downhill. A good late run by Norway’s Mowinckel gave the Norwegian silver behind Italy’s Sofia Goggia.

Norway beat France for the bronze in the inaugural mixed alpine team event.

Ragnild Haga won the gold in the women’s 10km freestyle by 20 seconds, but Bjørgen shared bronze in the event.

Simen Hegstad Krueger picked up another cross-country medal with a silver in the 15km freestyle.

Didrik Tønseth, Martin Johnsrud Sund­by, Krueger, and Johannes Høsflot Klæbo teamed for the gold in men’s 4x10km relay by 10 seconds, thanks to a final burst by Klæbo. Norway became the first country to have both its men’s and women’s relay teams win gold at the same Olympics for the second time (Grenoble 1968).

Bjørgen tied Bjørndalen when she led Norway to gold in the 4x5km relay. She skied anchor after Østberg, Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen, and Haga.

The bronze by Bjørgen and Maiken Caspersen Falla in the women’s cross-country team sprint was the record breaker for Bjørgen. Americans Jessica Diggins and 35-year-old Kikkan Randall won gold, the first cross-country medal ever for American women.

On the distaff side, Sundby and Klæbo gave Norway gold in the men’s team sprint, winning by 1.71 seconds. It was Klæbo’s third gold, the first Norwegian man to win three golds at an Olympics since Bjørndalen in 2002.

Ski Jumping
Robert Johansson took bronze in the men’s individual long ski jump followed by teammates Daniel-André Tande (fourth), Johann André Forfang (fifth), and Andreas Stjernen (eighth). A big last jump gave Poland’s Kamil Stoch his second straight gold. Germany’s Andreas Wellinger took silver.

Forfang, Johansson, Stjernen, and Tande combined to take gold in the team men’s large-hill ski jumping with a total of 1,098.5 points, besting Germany by 22.5 points, thanks to Johansson’s final jump.

Johannes Thingnes Bø recovered from poor outings in the first two biathlon events, with a gold in the 20km men’s individual in 48:03.8. He started ninth of 86, incurred a two-minute penalty for missing two of 20 shots, but won by 5.5 seconds.

Tiril Eckhoff won bronze in the women’s 12.5km mass start biathlon and Emil Hegle Svendsen bronze in men’s biathlon 15km mass start, then they teamed with Marte Olsbu and Bø to win silver in the mixed biathlon relay.

Norway had three penalty loops and finished fourth in the women’s biathlon 4x6km relay behind Belarus (1:12:03.4), Sweden, and France. Bjørndalen wasn’t able to compete for Norway but was in Pyeongchang as the husband of the Belarus anchor Darya Domracheva, who overcame three misses on the last shoot.

Norway and Sweden battled for gold in the biathlon 4×7.5km relay, but the Swedes won by 55.5 seconds with a time of 1:15:16.5. Bø provided a lead on the final handover, but Fredrick Lindström was perfect at the standing shoot and Svendsen had four misses for Norway.

Freestyle skiing
Øystein Bråten won the freestyle men’s slopestyle, while American Nick Goepper took silver. Americans David Wise and Alex Ferreira finished one-two in the freestyle skiing men’s halfpipe.

In the freestyle skiing women’s halfpipe, Canada’s Cassie Sharpe took gold, while American Brita Sigourney’s final run gave her the bronze.

Canada’s Brady Leman won gold in freestyle skiing men’s ski cross.

Canada continued to dominate in freestyle with gold and silver by Kelsey Serwa and Brittany Phelan in women’s ski cross.

Ice Hockey
Germany had just one win in men’s group play, a shootout against Norway, then advanced to the gold medal game where they lost in overtime to Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR), 4-3. In the semifinals, the Germans defeated two-time defending gold medalist, Canada, 4-3.

Norway and Sweden met for the first time in men’s ice hockey since 1980, but the Swedes came away with a 4-0 victory. Norway won only one game, the U.S. two.

The American women’s ice hockey team won its first gold since 1998 as Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson converted her shootout attempt (the fifth shot of the shootout), then 20-year old goalie Maddie Rooney stopped Meghan Agosta’s try for a 3-2 shootout win after the rivals battled to a 2-2 draw in regulation. The Americans, who lost a bitter final to Canada in 2014, rallied from a 2-1 deficit. Lamoureux-Davidson’s twin sister, Monique Lamoureux-Morando, equalized the game with just over six minutes left in regulation. Hilary Knight gave the Americans an early lead with a first-period goal before the Canadians took a 2-1 lead on second period tallies by Haley Irwin and Marie-Philip Poulin.

In perhaps the biggest shock of the Olympics, the U.S. men’s curling team defeated top-ranked Sweden 10-7 to win gold. The Canadian men’s curling team, which had won three straight Olympics, lost the bronze to Switzerland 7-5. After six games of the tournament, the Americans were 2-4.

Norway’s Kristin Skaslien and Magnus Nedregotten were awarded bronze in mixed doubles curling after OAR curler Aleksandr Krushelnitckii tested positive for meldonium.

Figure Skating
Gold-medal hopeful American figure skater Nathan Chen performed poorly in his short program, finishing 17th, while Adam Rippon was impressive, though finishing seventh, and Vincent Zhou 12th.

Chen had a fantastic long program including six quadruple jumps. For a while it put him in first place. A strong showing by Zhou had the two Americans 1-2. By the end, Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan took gold—the 1,000th gold medal in Olympic history.

Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir were golden in ice dancing. The Shibutani sibs (USA) won the bronze in ice dancing.

Canada’s Kaetlyn Osmond turned in her best performance of the season, but it was only good for bronze as 15-year-old Alina Zagitova (OAR) took gold ahead of teammate Evgenia Medvedeva in the women’s program.

Pyeongchang Medal Count

This article originally appeared in the March 9, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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M. Michael Brady

M. Michael Brady was born, raised, and educated as a scientist in the United States. After relocating to the Oslo area, he turned to writing and translating. In Norway, he is now classified as a bilingual dual national.