AP NEWS

Haga dusts field to win 10K freestyle; Bjoergen adds a medal

February 15, 2018

Ragnhild Haga, of Norway, celebrates after winning the gold medal in the women's 10km freestyle cross-country skiing competition at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) — Ragnhild Haga leaped in the air and did a split near the finish line.

She had plenty of reason to celebrate.

The 27-year-old Norwegian didn’t just beat the rest of the field in the women’s 10-kilometer freestyle on Thursday, she dusted them in the race of a lifetime to earn her first medal in her first Olympics.

Haga finished in 25 minutes, 00.5 seconds, winning the race by more than 20 seconds over the power-packed field that included silver medalist Charlotte Kalla of Sweden. Norwegian teammate Marit Bjoergen and Krista Parmakoski of Finland finished tied for third to earn bronze medals.

“I have trained a lot on the 10-kilometer free this year and I got a feeling that I had a good start in terms of speed,” Haga said.

The 37-year-old Bjoergen inched closer to making Winter Olympics history. She is now one medal shy of the matching the record of 13, held by Norwegian biathlete Ole Einar Bjoerndalen. Bjoergen became the most decorated female in Winter Olympics history last week when she took silver in the 15-kilometer skiathlon.

Parmakoski said she was honored to share the bronze medal step on the podium with Bjoergen.

“Marit is one of my idols when I was a young girl, so it’s nice to be fighting together with her,” Parmakoski said. “It’s a feeling that is so amazing.”

Haga entered the race ranked sixth in the world in distance events.

She said she put extra effort into the final kilometer, saying she was “frightened” of what Kalla might be doing on the course since they started at different intervals. Haga closed in a fury, barreling toward the finish line seemingly unconcerned about falling on the final downhill turn.

“When I started the last downhill I was thinking that, ‘This is the most important downhill of your life. You better stay on your feet,’” Haga said. “I gave it all I had because I feared that Kalla would go even faster in the end of her race. The way that I grabbed this opportunity, wow, I am truly satisfied with myself.”

With Ragnhild Mowinckel of Norway winning silver in the giant slalom earlier in the day, Haga jokingly called it “Ragnhild Day.”

“It is wild,” Haga said. “That was really inspiring.”

Norway has now won 115 Olympic medals in cross-country skiing, equaling Austria in Alpine skiing for most by one country in one winter sport. The Netherlands follows with 114 medals in speedskating.

Jessica Diggins of the United States finished in fifth place, less than four seconds out of medal contention. Hoping to become the first American woman to win a medal in cross-country skiing, Diggins now has three top-six finishes at the Olympics.

There were big cheers from the Korean cheerleaders in the crowd dressed in white after Yong Gum Ri finished more than 11½ minutes behind the leader. The North Korean skier finished in 89th place out of 90.

___

More AP Olympic coverage: https://wintergames.ap.org

AP RADIO
Update hourly