Falun, Sweden – She wasn’t completely unbeatable, but for the past two months, Marit Bjoergen (NOR) was pretty darn close.
Starting with her three golds, a silver, and a bronze at the Olympics, Bjoergen streaked to the end of the season with 10 victories in 14 starts (including relays). And the other four races? All either 2nd or 3rd.
Starting with a 50 second lead on rival Justyna Kowalczyk (POL), Bjoergen easily maintained the gap to win the World Cup Final.
Kowalczyk was never able to get closer than 40 seconds over the course of the 10km race, leaving all suspense to the fight for 3rd.
Kristin Stoermer Steira (NOR), who has put together an impressive streak of her own, with eight top-10 results since February 15, and Charlotte Kalla (SWE), starting virtually even in 3rd and 4th, worked together to take some time out of Kowalczyk, but were unable to get within striking distance, leaving the pair to fight for the last podium spot.
Kalla, the stronger finisher, skied clear in the last 200 meters. She posted the best time of the day, with Steira just seconds behind. Bjoergen and Kowalczyk were 5th and 6th on the day with nearly identical times.
“Conditions today were really difficult,” said Bjoergen. “I had a big advantage over Justyna with my time gap. The crowds along the course were incredible and supported me a lot.”
Kowalczyk may have spent the later part of the season looking at Bjoergen’s tails, but she left the Olympics with three medals of her own, including one gold, and her second consecutive World Cup overall title.
Anna Olsson (SWE), starting in 3rd, slipped to 8th, while Kristina Smigun-Vaehi (EST) made up 8 places with the 3rd fastest time of the day to finish 6th overall.
Randall Rolls On
Kikkan Randall keeps right on rolling, yesterday, holding steady in 17th place. Randall started the day in 16th, and skied the 17th fastest race while losing the one spot. She finished just 1.3 seconds behind Italian veteran Marianna Longa (ITA) and ahead of the likes of Valentina Schevchenko (UKR), Marthe Kristoffersen (NOR), Sabina Valbusa (ITA), and Virpi Kuitunen (FIN).
Like Bjoergen, Randall stepped up her game with the start of the Olympics. Since the classic sprint in Whistler, where she posted a record-breaking 8th result, she has turned in one top performance after another, in both distance and sprint races.
Dasha Gaiazova, the lone Canadian woman, finished the World Cup Final 41st out of 42 women. She was 38th on the day.
– Norway placed three women in the top-7 of the World Cup Final, with Bjoergen and Steira joined by Theres Johaug in 7th.
– Russian Valentina Novikova picked up the most places, nine, while moving from 23rd to 14th.
– Randall was caught by two skiers, while she overtook one.
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.