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Marit Bjorgen makes Olympic history in PyeongChang

All Marit Bjorgen needed was one event. One race to make history. Bjorgen on Saturday became the most...

Posted: Feb 10, 2018 6:18 AM
Updated: Feb 10, 2018 6:18 AM

All Marit Bjorgen needed was one event.

One race to make history.

Bjorgen on Saturday became the most decorated female Winter Olympian by picking up the silver medal in the women's 15km skiathlon at the Alpensia Cross-Country Centre in PyeongChang, South Korea.

The silver is Bjorgen's 11th career Olympic medal, most ever by a female Winter Olympian. One more medal will move her into a tie with Norwegian Bjoern Daehlie for the most Olympic medals by a cross-country skier of all-time.

"I am here to take medals," Bjorgen, 37, said. "It is my fifth Olympics and still to be there, I am happy with that. I am happy to be here at my age."

With two more medals, Bjorgen will tie Norwegian biathlete Ole Einar Bjoerndalen as the most decorated Winter Olympian. Three more would put her in sole possession of that title.

Charlotte Kalla of Sweden separated herself from the field to win the first gold medal of the PyeongChang Games. Kalla finished in 40 minutes, 44.9 seconds. Bjorgen closed 7.8 seconds behind Kalla.

Bjorgen was leading the pack until Kalla broke away in the final 2 kilometers. From there, it was Kalla's race to lose and she only saw her lead increase.

"I should have been more aware when Charlotte was attacking," Bjorgen said. "It was other girls there as well and not easy to have her back. She was too tough for me, so I think that silver was the best for me.

"I am very happy to take a medal in my last Olympics and still to be there. Charlotte was stronger than me."

The gold is Kalla's third and sixth Olympic medal of her career. At the 2014 Sochi Games, Kalla earned silver, while Bjorgen won the gold. The roles were reversed at the PyeongChang Games.

"(It means) a lot," Kalla said of winning the first medal of the PyeongChang Games. "I was quite nervous today and the Olympics is something I have focused on for a long, long time. It has felt great during the season, but I know everyone wants to be in shape at the Olympics.

"It was really exciting and fun to compete today. … On the finish line. I did not want to look back before and just focus on keep pushing all the time. It was so much happiness but also relief. But most of all, pure joy."

Finland's Krista Parmakoski took home the bronze medal. She finished the race in 40 minutes, 55 seconds.

Bjorgen's next chance at a medal will be Tuesday’s women’s 10km individual sprint.

"Last year, in her home world championships," Parmakoski said, "we were fighting with Marit and now also we're fighting with Marit. She was really strong and I think that she will also come to win a gold medal here."

Jessie Diggins finished in fifth place, completing the race in 40 minutes, 59.6 seconds. Diggins' fifth-place finish is the highest for an American woman in Olympic cross-country.

Before Saturday's event, the previous highest finish by an American woman was Sophie Caldwell, who finished in sixth place of the women's individual sprint at the 2014 Sochi Games.

The U.S. will have to wait another day to end their 42-year long Olympic medal drought in cross-country skiing.

Cross-country continues Sunday (1:15 a.m EST) with the men’s 30km skiathlon.

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