FALUN, Sweden – Therese Johaug upstaged Norwegian teammate Marit Bjoergen by winning the women’s 30-kilometer cross-country race by almost a minute Saturday, ending the Nordic skiing world championships as the most successful woman with three golds.
Johaug showed she’s more than ready to take over from the 34-year-old Bjoergen as perhaps the sport’s biggest female star, using an early breakaway to leave the pack behind. She led by more than a minute for much of the race, and had time to grab a Norwegian flag to wave more than a kilometer before the finish line.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been in as good shape,” the 26-year-old Johaug said. “Even the sun came out at the end of the race. The championships could not end any better.”
Johaug beat Bjoergen – the six-time Olympic champion – by 52.3 seconds. Charlotte Kalla of Sweden, who won the 10K freestyle race in Falun, was 1:31.6 behind to take bronze.
Johaug also won the 15K skiathlon, and helped Norway take gold in the relay, but said this was the victory she wanted most. Johaug won the 30K freestyle race at the 2011 worlds in Oslo, but this was the first time since the 2010 Olympics that anyone beat Bjoergen over the distance in classical style.
“Marit has been the queen of 30K races at the championships before me,” Johaug said. “Since we started the championships, it was this day that I’ve really looked forward to.”
This may have been the last major championship race for Bjoergen, the most decorated female Winter Olympian ever. She said she will decide after the season whether she wants to continue competing. She leaves Falun with two golds and a silver from five races, taking her total medal haul at world championships to a record 14 golds, five silvers, and three bronzes.
Overall, Norway won five of the six women’s cross-country races.
“Of course I’m really, really happy with these world championships,” Bjoergen said. “It’s been a great season (but) I haven’t thought about what I’m going to do in the future. ... I have to use April to think about what I want to do.”
In the last Nordic combined event of the worlds, France defended its title in the team sprint after Jason Lamy Chappuis held off Germany’s Johannes Rydzek at the finish line.
France won by 2.7 seconds after a cross-country sprint relay that was affected by poor snow conditions on a course that became increasingly soft. The event features two skiers on each team taking turns doing five laps around a 1.5-kilometer course, which already had been used for part of the women’s 30K race.
Lamy Chappuis and Francois Braud led after the ski jump portion, but Germany closed the gap to make it a tense finish.
“This afternoon was so close, I couldn’t believe it,” said Lamy Chappuis, who won his fifth career world title. “It was really hard to race because the snow was so soft.”
After the race, Lamy Chappuis said he will retire after the season.
Norway took bronze, 19.4 seconds back.
Germany’s Eric Frenzel, the overall World Cup leader, described the conditions as “really bad.”
“It was not like world championships for me,” he said.
In the ski jump team event, Norway ended Austria’s streak of five consecutive world championship wins.
Normal hill champion Rune Velta earned his fourth medal in four events at these worlds by safely landing his jump in the final round after his teammates gave Norway a big lead.
Anders Bardal, Anders Jacobsen, Anders Fannemel, and Velta beat silver-medalist Austria by 19.4 points. Poland took bronze.
Austria had won every team world title since Finland took gold in 2003. This was Norway’s first gold since 1993, the last time the championships were in Falun.
“It’s good to stick with traditions,” Jacobsen said.
The championships end with the men’s 50K classical race Sunday.