PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) — The Pyeongchang Games got off to a historic start on Saturday.
Charlotte Kalla of Sweden won the first gold medal of the games and Norwegian cross-country skier Marit Bjoergen took silver in the women’s 15-kilometer skiathlon to become the most decorated female Winter Olympian ever.
It was an 11th career medal for Bjoergen, breaking a three-way tie with Raisa Smetanina of Russia and Stefania Belmondo of Italy.
Bjoergen thrust her arms up in the air as she crossed the finish, knowing she’d made history.
Kalla won the race by more than seven seconds after breaking away from the pack in the last 2 kilometers to avenge her second-place finish to Bjoergen at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
But the 37-year-old Bjoergen, who won three gold medals at Vancouver in 2010 and three more in Sochi, proved she’s still a dominant figure in the sport despite entering the competition ranked seventh in the event.
Krista Parmakoski of Finland was third and Jessica Diggins placed fifth, missing a chance to become the first American woman to earn a medal in cross-country skiing. Diggins was third in the World Cup standings coming into the race.
Led by Bjoergen, Norway won 11 medals overall in cross-country at Sochi in 2014 — including five golds — to tie the country’s record. And they appear to be one of the teams to beat again in Pyeongchang.
The Norwegians have now tied Russia for the most medals all time in women’s cross-country skiing with 37.
Including men’s events, only Bjoern Daehlie of Norway has won more medals (12) than Bjoergen. She will have a chance to pass that mark in the upcoming weeks.
For Kalla it was the sixth career Olympic medal — and third gold.
Bjoergen was 14th after the first of the four laps, but bolted to the lead on the outside on the second lap. She led by less than a second at the midway point of the race as the crowd roared, sensing that history was near.
But when the skiers changed skis and went from classical to freestyle technique, Bjoergen seemed to lose some momentum. The lead changed hands several times on the third lap before Bjoergen again grabbed the lead.
But it didn’t last.
Late in the race Kalla seemed re-energized and pulled away with a burst. She coasted the final 20 meters for the victory after leading by more than 10 seconds.
By STEVE REED