The queen of cross country skiing will have an heir to her throne come December, and if all goes according to plan she will be back to ruling the World Cup by 2017.
Six-time Olympic gold medalist and 14-time world champion Marit Bjørgen announced Tuesday in a press conference that she is pregnant with partner Fred Børre Lundberg. Bjørgen’s baby is due in December, the height of the 2015/2016 season, and the Norwegian plans to sit out the entirety of the season.
“I’ll drop a bomb. I will become a mom in December,” she said at the beginning of the press conference according to a translation from Norwegian broadcaster NRK Sport.
The news comes as a surprise to the international nordic community, especially after Bjørgen assured journalists in April that she would compete in 2015/2016 season and had no plans regarding retirement. “I have used the spring to think a little, and I am now sure that I’m a hundred percent ready to put down the work needed to continue my career,” she said at the time. According to NRK Sport, even Bjørgen’s mother was surprised when her daughter informed her of the news.
Bjørgen told her fellow Norwegian National Team members two days before the press conference to much celebration. Teammate Therese Johaug, who joked she would be the child’s “spare aunt,” said that the news was emotional for both her and the team. “First and foremost, I am so incredibly happy at Marit their behalf. I knew it when she told the team on Sunday and also when she told here today that I get tears in my eyes thinking of it,” she said at the press conference according to NRK Sport. Bjørgen said that she will do her best to attend team meetings and be as supportive as possible throughout the remainder of the year.
The overall 2014/2015 World Cup winner’s absence in the upcoming season creates a power vacuum on the circuit, giving skiers like fellow Norwegians Johuag and Heidi Weng the opportunity to take up her mantle. Bjørgen won her first Tour de Ski in 2015 and her removal from the event gives Johaug a clear path to another victory. The U.S. Ski Team’s Liz Stephen, who finished fifth in the 2015 Tour, also has a greater opportunity to earn America’s first overall podium in the event with Bjørgen gone.
Women’s World Cup skiers shouldn’t get too used to Bjørgen’s absence, as the 35-year-old plans to return to skiing in the 2016/2017 season. While at this time it is unclear whether that would mean the entire season or the latter half, Bjørgen believes that she’ll be competing at the 2017 World Championships in Lahti, Finland and at the 2018 Olympics is PyeonChang, South Korea.
“There are not so many ski runs in the winter, but I’d like to come back in 2017 if things work well,” she said.