Winter Olympics 2018

Bjoergen the toast of Norway

Clockwise, from left: Marit Bjoergen, winner of the 30km cross-country mass start race, being feted while waving the Norwegian flag. Her fifth medal in Pyeongchang took her tally to eight golds, four silvers and three bronzes over five Games - making
The Olympic Athletes from Russia ice hockey team carrying their coach Oleg Znarok after the medal ceremony. The team beat Germany in the final, ending their 26-year wait for gold. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Clockwise, from left: Marit Bjoergen, winner of the 30km cross-country mass start race, being feted while waving the Norwegian flag. Her fifth medal in Pyeongchang took her tally to eight golds, four silvers and three bronzes over five Games - making
Won Yun Jong, Jun Jung Lin, Seo Young Woo and Kim Dong Hyun arriving at the finish area in the four-man bobsleigh final. They bagged an unexpected silver, South Korea's first medal in the sport.PHOTO: REUTERS

Veteran's eighth career gold lifts country to top spot in medal tally, as Russian flag stays banned

PYEONGCHANG (South Korea) • Winter Olympics legend Marit Bjoergen lifted Norway to the top of the final medal tally yesterday, as Russia celebrated a dramatic men's hockey gold - but also saw their flag barred from the closing ceremony over an ongoing doping controversy.

Bjoergen, 37, won her second gold and fifth medal in Pyeongchang in the women's 30km cross country mass start - the last event of the 23rd Games - extending her career tally to 15.

It was a fitting finale as it handed Norway their 14th gold to overtake Germany, who had won the four-man bobsleigh earlier, in the final medal count.

Germany also finished on 14 golds, but Norway took top spot with their record 39 medals overall to Germany's 31. Canada were third with 11 golds, while hosts South Korea were seventh (5-8-4).

However, the fairy tale of South Korea's "Garlic Girls" women's curling team ended in disappointment, as they lost the final 3-8 to Sweden.

There was joy for Bjoergen who matched the Games record of eight golds shared by compatriots, biathlete Ole Einar Bjoerndalen and cross-country skier Bjoern Daehlie. She also equalled the record of winning five medals at a single Games, something 10 athletes have done, including Bjoergen herself in 2010.

Emotional after her race, she said: "I have been three weeks away from Marius (her two-year-old son), and now I know that I'm finished and tomorrow I can see him.

 Marit Bjoergen, winner of the 30km cross-country mass start race, being feted while waving the Norwegian flag. Her fifth medal in Pyeongchang took her tally to eight golds, four silvers and three bronzes over five Games - making
Marit Bjoergen, winner of the 30km cross-country mass start race, being feted while waving the Norwegian flag. Her fifth medal in Pyeongchang took her tally to eight golds, four silvers and three bronzes over five Games - making her the most successful Winter Olympian. PHOTO: REUTERS

"It's incredible to finish my Olympic career like this, there were lots of feelings the last 100 metres, and I'm really happy. It's hard to understand what I have done, from my first Olympics in Salt Lake until now, it's been incredible."

Norway's celebrations capped a dramatic final day that saw the Olympics Athletes from Russia beat Germany 4-3 in a sudden-death, overtime hockey thriller.

Kirill Kaprizov scored a thumping power-play goal 9 minutes and 40 seconds into the extra period to trigger wild celebrations and end a 26-year wait for the title to return to Russian hands.

"It was great it came out like that. Our whole team will stay in the memory of the people as having won the gold medal," he said.

Russia's coach Oleg Znarok said Russian President Vladimir Putin called him to congratulate him on the victory. Znarok said his calm exterior during the final was "a mask" and added: "I was nervous but I did not want to show it. This match was the most important one in my life."

The men's ice hockey win brought Russia's total gold medal haul to two, far behind their dope-tainted haul of 13 at Sochi.

The Russian players were heard singing their national anthem on the ice - apparently contravening rules governing their participation as neutrals, following a major doping scandal.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) had voted to maintain Russia's ban pending the results of final dope tests from Pyeongchang, meaning the Russians could not wave their national flag during last night's closing ceremony.

Altogether 168 Russian athletes, including the ice hockey players, were deemed "clean" and allowed to compete as neutrals, despite the suspension of Russia's national Olympic committee.

But two Russians tested positive for doping during the Games and IOC president Thomas Bach said as a result, the ban could not be lifted.

He denied the Pyeongchang Games had been "tainted" by the Russian doping scandal and said Russia's ban from Olympic participation will automatically be lifted if anti-doping officials do not find any more Russian drug cases in Pyeongchang.

Russia's national Olympic committee hailed yesterday's IOC vote and said it expected its suspension to be lifted "within the next few days".

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, XINHUA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 26, 2018, with the headline 'Bjoergen the toast of Norway'. Print Edition | Subscribe