ZHANGJIAKOU, China (Reuters) – Therese Johaug brushed off the high winds at the National Cross-Country Skiing Centre to breeze to victory in the women’s 30km mass start and claim her third individual gold medal of the Beijing Games, which she said would be her final Olympics.
The 33-year-old took the lead a third of the way into the race and never looked back as the high winds, which caused the event to be moved back several hours, buffeted the course.
“I was born in a small place that gets a lot of wind and a lot of cold temperature in the region, so this was nothing for me,” she told Reuters, wrapped in a Norwegian flag.
Johaug, who was born in Os, Norway, a small town with a population of less than 2,000 people, waited at the finish line to congratulate Chinese athletes Dinigeer Yilamujiang, who was the last to finish.
“I was so proud of the Chinese girls, they are training and working so hard for this Olympics, they have been in Norway a lot and training there,” Johaug told reporters.
“Five or six years ago they didn’t know what cross-country is, I’m so proud that they are here today and that she finished the race. I told her she should be proud of herself.”
Johaug said the race in Beijing would be the last in her Olympic career but that she had not yet decided to quit the sport.
“I have not decided what I will do next year, I will decide now after the season,” she said, adding that she hoped her career had inspired others.
“It is important that the sport is popular and that we can bring up some new girls in the future. I hope that we can do a good job there,” she said.
(Reporting by Philip O’Connor; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)