Marit Bjørgen plots her comeback

Training for long distance cross-country skiing races with her eyes on Vasaloppet

Bjørgen

Photo: Terje Pedersen / NTB Scanpix
Marit Bjørgen in her last 30-km freestyle race of her career at Alta on April 7, 2018, in which she earned a silver medal. On May 26, the most decorated Winter Olympian announced that at age 40, she plans on making a comeback in long-distance races.

Sjur Natvig
NTB

Former cross-country star Marit Bjørgen, 40, announced on May 26 that she plans to make a comeback in cross-country skiing, NRK reported. Her goal is to join the Aukland brothers, Anders and Fredrik, on their distance team and compete at Vasaloppet next year.

“I have been out of the game for two years now and have missed having a specific goal to work toward,” said Bjørgen to NRK.

On May 19, she trained with the Aukland brothers’ long-distance team as they practiced poling with roller-skis. She realized it has been a long time since she has been subjected to such stresses. With blisters on her hands and a sore elbow, she gave up after 3 of 6  miles.

“I have to start carefully, but it was fun. I have a little work to do,” Bjørgen said.

The big goal for the winter is the 9-mile long-distance classic Vasaloppet in Sweden. She does not rule out participation in Marcialonga in Italy or a Norwegian championship distance.

Has ambitions

“I’m anxious to have the opportunity to be on the world’s best long-distance team. I’m curious to learn something new and have something concrete to work toward. I have ambitions for when I first get my starting number. Then we will see what I can do in the months ahead.”

Bjørgen’s comeback plans are welcomed with open arms in the cross-country scene.

“It’s amazingly fun, and I think it will be very good for her,” said current women’s star Therese Johaug to NRK. “I’m not going to put any pressure on her at all. The most important thing is to keep up the joy of training, to get out and have something to strive for.”

Now a mother of two, Bjørgen says she hopes to get in 10 hours of training a week.

Photo: Ole Berg-Rusten / NTB scanpix
Former cross-country skiing star Marit Bjørgen is concerned that all children should participate in good, healthy activities. On Feb. 27, she visited Sørhellinga kindergarten in the Alna district to motivate the children to increase their physical activity.

A great idea

The spearhead of her comeback was what Jørgen Aukland describes as “a wild idea.” A text message led to further conversations and ended with a commitment agreement. He says the goal is to create maximum interest, so that more women will compete in long distances.

He does not want to comment on the amount of money in the agreement but says he thinks it was “inexpensive” to get Bjørgen on the team.

“Marit is going to train well,” said Aukland to NRK. “It will be less quantity than before, but targeted and specific for Vasaloppet. We know what it takes to win that race, and she has good chances to be at the top there.”

Bjørgen was a five-time Olympian, the most decorated winter Olympic athlete with 15 medals, surpassing fellow Norwegians biathlete Ole Einar Bjørndalen and cross-country skier Bjørn Dæhlie (13 each) as best Olympian. Her eight golds tied Bjørndalen and Dæhlie for most gold.

This article originally appeared in the June 12, 2020, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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