We saw two races today — a three-way race between three Norwegians, then a race among everyone else. Norway had some frustration in these Olympics, but not today. Marit Bjoergen won her third gold medal of these Games. She’s tied for the women’s Winter Olympic career records with six golds and 10 medals.
Sport: Cross-country skiing
Event: Women’s 30k freestyle mass start
Medalists: Marit Bjoergen (Norway), Theresa Johaug (Norway), Kristin Stoermer Steira (Norway)
SportsMyriad projections: Justyna Kowalczyk (Poland), Therese Johaug (Norway), Marit Bjoergen (Norway)
How U.S. fared: Not the USA’s best event, but a couple of skiers were seeded in the top 15. They were never a factor, though. Skiers have the option of changing skis at the 10k and 20k mark, and the U.S. skiers all changed at 10k. Then they saw few other skiers making the same decision. That cost them about 20 seconds, and no one was in the chase pack of about 12 skiers.
Liz Stephen finished 24th (3:06.6 back), Holly Brooks 27th (3:53.1), Kikkan Randall 28th (4:05.5), Jessie Diggins 40th (7:07.8).
What happened: Remember when Norway had all the wrong wax or all the wrong skis? Not today. At the 10k mark, Norway had the top three and the skier in fifth. Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla broke up the party, with Poland’s Justyna Kowalczyk and Finland’s Krista Lahteenmaki immediately behind.
Then Theresa Johaug, Marit Bjoergen and Kristin Stoermer Steira simply broke away. At the halfway point, they were more than 30 seconds ahead of Lahteenmaki. Kowalczyk, unable to keep up, simply popped off her skis and withdrew from the race. (She prefers classical.)
By the 20k mark, the lead was close to a minute over a dispirited chase pack, where the other contenders had little interest in turning up the pace to chase for fourth place.
Bjoergen and Johaug pushed up the final climb and dropped Steira. Bjoergen gained some daylight at the top and raced away for the win. Johaug was 2.6 seconds back, then Steira 23 seconds behind.
The Norwegians had a minute — literally — to celebrate at the finish line before Finland’s Kerttu Niskanen won the sprint for fourth place.