Wednesday, May 18

Superb Johaug took his first individual Olympic gold

ZHANGJIAKOU / OSLO (VG) Therese Johaug (33) ensured a Norwegian dream start in the Olympics when she crushed the competitors during the Olympics’ first medal practice.

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12 years after she was part of the Norwegian relay team that won Olympic gold in 2010, Therese Johaug could on Saturday cheer for her second Olympic gold – and the first individual Olympic gold in her career.

In cold and windy conditions in the mountains outside Beijing, 15 kilometers of joint start with ski change was the first medal exercise in the 24th edition of the Winter Olympics.

There, Therese Johaug took command from the start and into the ski change, Johaug came a few seconds ahead of the Finnish duo Kerttu Niskanen and Krista Pärmäkoski and the Swedish Frida Karlsson.

Johaug went hard on the skating part, and the small hatch she had when changing skis grew bigger and bigger. With five kilometers left, she had 26 seconds down to Karlsson, and Johaug had full control of the victory in the last part of the race.

Natalja Neprjajeva was second, 30.2 seconds behind Johaug. Teresa Stadlober went in for bronze, while the Swedish hope Frida Karlsson finished in fifth place.

The margin of victory is by far the largest in the practice of an international championship. Previously, Julija Tsjepalaova’s victory during the World Cup in Oberstdorf in 2005 was the one with the largest margin of victory. The Russian then won 15.7 seconds ahead of Marit Bjørgen.

After Johaug was not allowed to join Olympics in Pyeongchang in 2018 due to the doping verdict she served, Johaug has had this winter’s Olympics as a major motivating factor for the investment – what is scheduled to be her last Olympics.

Joint start with ski change was made in the championship for the first time in the WC 2003. Then it was Kristina Smigun who took the gold, and the first years there was no great Norwegian success in the exercise. The first gold came on the sixth attempt, when Marit Bjørgen took Olympic gold in the distance in 2010.

Since then, it has also been a great success for the Norwegian women in the exercise. Bjørgen followed up with World Cup gold in 2011, 2013 and 2017, as well as Olympic gold in 2014. Therese Johaug won the exercise during the World Cup in 2015, 2019 and 2021, and the only non-Norwegian victory in the last 12 years was Charlotte Kalla who took during the 2018 Olympics.

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The Swedish favorite then won in front of Bjørgen, and Kalla was again on the Swedish team in Saturday’s race.

Bjørgen was not there, but Therese Johaug was in charge the Norwegian team with “only” three athletes after the corona infection of Heidi Weng and Anne Kjersti Kalvå.

The supposedly strongest challengers were the Swedish duo Frida Karlsson and Ebba Andersson and the Russian Natalja Neprjajeva, and it soon became clear that Johaug was the only Norwegian athlete who wanted to take part in the close fight. After blasting the field in the classic part, Johaug seriously jerked off after the ski change and went in for a superb Olympic gold.

According to the plan, Johaug will also run 10 kilometers, 30 kilometers and the relay in the Olympics.

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