An abnormally high pulse in training Saturday morning prompted Norwegian Marit Bjørgen to go to the hospital, and on Sunday, the defending World Cup champion was discharged after being examined for cardiac dysrhythmia, also known as arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat.
Without knowing the full extent of her rhythmic disturbances, coach Egil Kristiansen said they wouldn’t be taking any chances.
“I can say for sure is that she is not going to the Tour de Ski,” he told NRK.no, adding that there’s no reason to worry about Bjørgen ending her career due to heart disorders.
The 32-year-old first detected an unusually high heart beat at practice Friday. She took another reading on Saturday and contacted a private physician, Hans Petter Stokke. Bjørgen was then admitted to St. Olav’s Hospital with what appeared to be cardiac dysrhythmia and spent the night there.
She returned home Sunday to her family with electrodes attached to her body for doctors to detect future abnormalities in her heart’s rhythm.
“The intention is to do research of heart rhythm disturbance while actually happening,” Stokke said.
“To my knowledge, there is no more serious than that she may soon start training again,” Kristiansen said. “But it’s important that she does not burden your body too much. Tour de Ski is a huge burden, so it goes without saying that she can not attend there.”
“She’s an incredibly tough lady, and there is no doubt that Bjoergen will come out stronger from this,” teammate Maiken Caspersen Falla told NRK. “I think she will use it as motivation towards the World Cup in February.”
Another young teammate, Ingvild Flugstad Østberg, 22, said she was “very put out” by the news, but was glad everything turned out well.
“I have great faith that she comes back even stronger,” Østberg said. “She is so strong both physically and mentally.”
“Fitness-wise, we live pretty similar lives,” Petter Northug said. “It is sad that she loses Tour de Ski, but when all is said and done it does not mean anything. It is health that is most important.”
Even Justyna Kowalcyzk’s coach, Aleksander Wierietielny, offered a reaction: “We are very surprised,” he told the Polish New Agency. “It’s hard to believe. I’ve never heard that Bjørgen had health problems, and especially not with her heart.”
Alex Kochon (email@example.com) is the former managing editor at FasterSkier. She spent seven years with FS from 2011-2018, and has been writing, editing, and skiing ever since. She's making a cameo in 2020.