When Marit Bjørgen won Saturday’s classic sprint in Östersund, Sweden, she accomplished a few notable facts: it was her 90th World Cup win in a storied career; she overtook Norwegian teammate Ingvild Flugstad Östberg in the Sprint Cup standings; and she positioned herself even better than she previously had, if that was possible, for the 2015 World Championships which start in nearby Falun next week.
Yet if you ask Bjørgen, she still feels that a medal sweep in Falun is impossible.
“No, I cannot not take six gold medals in the World Championships,” she told Norwegian broadcaster NRK. “ Then I must have more luck than today. There is so much that has to fall into place that I do not think it is possible.”
Bjørgen won the 1.2 k sprint by 1.8 seconds over teammate Maiken Caspersen Falla. The only non-Norwegian in the sprint final, Stina Nilsson of Sweden, placed third; Kari Gjeitnes, Östberg, and Celine Brun-Lie rounded out the top six.
Bjørgen now leads the overall World Cup by more than 500 points over another Norwegian star, Therese Johaug, and has won 12 different competitions so far this season. The only time she finished off the podium was in a classic sprint in Davos, Switzerland, in December.
The star told NRK that the course – a new one on the World Cup circuit, with unique features like a trail that headed straight through the middle of the grandstand and out the other side – did not suit her. But she felt strong.
“I knew I had strength,” she said.
It was Bjørgen’s first World Cup competition since the Tour de Ski ended in January, and she said that she was happy to see that the positive signs from that tour – which she won convincingly – were multiplying.
“The shape is better and better,” she told adressa.no. “I have a good feeling now before the World Championships. I’m glad that I had good speed in the body and I’m very much looking forward to Falun now… it suggests that, at least, I’m not worse than I was in recent years.”
As such, she plans to start six competitions at World Championships.
And yet, she said, during a Championships her fitness could possibly go downhill.
“I have felt very good in summer and fall… although I am in very good shape, things can get a little heavier and then it gets tough.”
Besides her many speedy teammates, Nilsson could be a threat to Bjørgen in the sprint at World Championships. She has yet to win a World Cup, but the Swede – who leads the Helvetia U23 rankings – has two previous second-place finishes this season and will be competing on home soil.
She’s trying not to let the pressure get to her.
“It’s something that I and my mental coach have been quite clear about,” she told Swedish daily Dagbladet. “There’s a place I want to be in, and it’s here and now. Not to be in Thursday when it’s only now Saturday.”
The other big news for Norway was that with her fourth-place finish, Gjeitnes earned a start in the classic sprint at World Championships over Heidi Weng, who currently sits third in the overall World Cup rankings and had been assumed to be a starter.
“I can only tip my hat to her,” Weng, who placed 10th in the sprint, told NRK.
“I’m very satisfied,” said 30-year-old Gjeitnes, for whom it will be the first World Championships.
Chelsea Little is FasterSkier's Editor-At-Large. A former racer at Ford Sayre, Dartmouth College and the Craftsbury Green Racing Project, she is a PhD candidate in aquatic ecology in the @Altermatt_lab at Eawag, the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology in Zurich, Switzerland. You can follow her on twitter @ChelskiLittle.