Norwegian ski star Marit Bjørgen has decided to continue racing for another season.
The 35-year-old said at the end of the season that she would have to think long and hard about whether she wanted to continue racing. She was exhausted and couldn’t imagine beginning another 900-hour training year.
After thinking, though, she said she’d keep skiing.
“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 told Norwegian broadcaster NRK, according to a translation.
Bjørgen is the most successful female cross-country skier of all time, having won 93 World Cup races, six Olympic gold medals, and 14 World Championships gold medals. 2014-2015 was arguably one of her most successful seasons yet: she won her fourth World Cup overall title by a huge margin, with 2172 points to runner-up Therese Johaug’s 1388. It was the first time she had won the overall World Cup since 2012.
The consumate all-arounder, Bjørgen also won the sprint and distance titles. She also finally won the Tour de Ski for the first time.
At World Championships in Falun, Sweden, this past season, Bjørgen won the classic sprint, anchored the winning Norwegian 4 x 5 k relay team, and won silver in the 30 k classic competition. Among her many regular-season wins was an impressive dismantling of Johaug, her strongest rival in distance skiing, in the final 30 k skate race in Oslo.
After that competition, Johaug and other teammates begged Bjørgen to continue racing.
“She is an amazing skier, a model and a best friend,” Johaug told NRK.
“For us behind as Marit Bjørgen, there is an advantage if she stops, then we can win some,” teammate Heidi Weng said. “But compared to the woman she is and the environment she creates [it’s nothing], so I hope she continues.”
While contemplating her next move, Bjørgen planned for the future. She set up a holding company, called Tiram (that’s “Marit” spelled backwards) for “motivation, lectures, and property”, although it’s not clear that she’s using the company for anything at the moment.
Guri Hetland, Bjørgen‘s manager, told Norwegian newspaper VG in early April that she had no comment about the company, and that Bjørgen would announce it when the time was right.
As of 2013, Bjørgen had about $3.5 million (25 million Norwegian kroner) in earnings. That has likely increased substantially after the Olympics and this dominant season.
So there’s no monetary reason to continue racing, and Bjørgen has little unfinished business on the World Cup. That means that her continuation comes down to motivation and desire. She hasn’t said what will be the focus of her season in 2015-2016, a year with no World Championships.
“I would have respected if she had chosen to end as well, but we are obviously very happy that she continues,” Åge Skinstad, the outgoing head coach of the Norwegian national team, told VG. “Marit is a monument for Norwegian cross country and that she continues to ensure that the national program is better is also better for everyone else. Marit is a quality skier and ensures that the job being done is good enough.”