Thursday, 8 February 2018 - 17:15
PYEONGCHANG - Cross-country skier Marit BJOERGEN (NOR) is on the verge of making history on two fronts as she prepares to start and end the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games, from which she could emerge as the most decorated female Winter Olympian.
BJOERGEN has won three gold medals at each of the past two Olympic Winter Games and her haul of six golds, three silvers and one bronze medal over four editions makes her the joint most-decorated woman at the Olympic Winter Games alongside Russia's Raisa SMETANINA and Stefania BELMONDO (ITA).
The 37-year-old needs two gold medals to equal the feats of Ole Einar BJORNDALEN (NOR) and Bjorn DAEHLIE (NOR), whose eight golds apiece is an Olympic Winter Games record, while three medals of any colour for BJOERGEN will equal BJORNDALEN's unsurpassed 13 career medals.
BJOERGEN's World Cup performances have not been as dominant in the past two seasons as the 10 prior to her taking maternity leave for the birth of her first son in 2015, so a relay gold medal might be her best hope.
Other women expected to be strong at PyeongChang 2018 include Heidi WENG (NOR), who leads the women's overall World Cup standings for 2017/18 ahead of Ingvild Flugstad OESTBERG (NOR) and Jessica DIGGINS (USA).
Charlotte KALLA (SWE) is again in promising form and Stina NILSSON (SWE) and Maiken Caspersen FALLA (NOR) are expected to feature prominently, particularly in the sprint.
In the men's competition, Johannes Hoesflot KLAEBO (NOR) could be the next big star of cross-country skiing.
In 2017, at age 20, KLAEBO became the youngest cross-country skier to become World Cup overall sprint champion and at present he leads the overall World Cup standings ahead of proven Olympic Games performers and strong medal hopes Dario COLOGNA (SUI), Martin Johnsrud SUNDBY (NOR) and Alex HARVEY (CAN).
World champion in the 50km mass start, HARVEY expects a lively PyeongChang 2018 men's competition.
"You're going to need to be strong physically but also smart tactically and have really good equipment, so I think it's a really fair course," HARVEY said.
"I'd say he (KLAEBO) is the favourite to win the skiathlon, just as he is to win the sprint.
"I'm expecting the Norwegians to make it hard (and) not make it cheap to be on the podium. Dario has been in good shape and also Alexey POLTORANIN (KAZ) - he's been skating better this season, so he could try to make some damage in classic. Same with Iivo NISKANEN (FIN).
"There can be a lot of different scenarios but I think the most realistic one is fireworks to start happening in the last two laps of the skating, with Martin (Johnsrud SUNDBY) taking charge of it."