Bjoergen, dubbed the 'Iron Lady,' stayed safe in the leading pack
for most of the race, which combines 7.5km in classic style and
7.5km in freestyle, until outsprinting Sweden's Charlotte Kalla in
the race to the finish.
Another Norwegian, Heidi Weng, took third place just ahead of World
Cup leader and compatriot Therese Johaug, who paid the price of
working tirelessly at the front of the pack in the second part of
All four of the Norwegian skiers in the race were wearing black
armbands after receiving the news that the brother of cross-country
team mate Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen had died on Friday, the day of
the opening ceremony.
"My fantastic girls ... You are my strength in thick and thin,"
Tweeted Jacobsen during the race. "Thanks for the commemorating
armbands. Forever grateful, whether there will be medals or not."
Television pictures later showed the Norwegian skiers hugging
together, with a crying Bjoergen resting Johaug's head on her
Bjoergen came home in a time of 38:33.6, 1.8 seconds ahead of Kalla.
"One gold was my goal, so now I can relax a little bit. I can enjoy
the rest of the Games," Bjoergen, who still has five events to take
part in, told reporters.
"I knew Charlotte would be strong in the sprint and she's good at
the climbs but I thought that if I could follow her, I would have a
"I knew it would be a sprint. I did my best for the last 100 meters
and I was sprinting very hard at the end."
[to top of second column]
Norway women's coach Egil Kristiansen, told TV2: "Marit seemed to be
in complete control. And with third and fourth place too, it's a
Bjoergen's fourth Olympic gold medal takes her past Sonja Henie as
the most successful woman from Norway in summer or winter Games.
Kalla was the fastest at the 7.5km mark where the field changed skis
but things did not go as smoothly for Pole Justyna Kowalczyk, who
fell just before the stop and lost time she could not recover.
Johaug then pulled the leading pack of five into the final 3.75-km
lap as they charged down a descent at over 70kph.
Kalla attacked with just under a kilometre left, taking Bjoergen in
her slipstream and the Norwegian, who has now eight Olympic medals
to her name, put in the decisive attack on the sprint to the line.
Second place seemed to satisfy Kalla, though.
"This is my dream," she said.
"It means a lot to me to be on the podium for the first time. I
could not imagine this before the race."
(Additional reporting by Terje Solsvik and Dmitry Rogovitskyi;
editing by Peter Rutherford)
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