ROSA KHUTOR, Russia (Reuters) - Norway’s cross-country women’s skiing team were caught in an emotional whirlwind on Saturday amid the joy of Marit Bjoergen’s fourth Olympic title and the pain of learning the brother of one of their team mates had died.
The Norwegian team announced on Saturday that the brother of Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen had died on the day of the Sochi Winter Games opening ceremony.
“On Friday, Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen suddenly and unexpectedly lost her brother and training partner,” a team statement said.
“The cross-country team has been assembled to comfort Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen in a difficult situation.”
Currently second in the overall World Cup standings, Jacobsen did not take part in Saturday’s skiathlon event and it was not immediately clear whether she would compete in Sochi.
Shortly after crossing the finish line on a sunny day at the Laura Biathlon and Cross-Country Complex, Therese Johaug, fourth in the skiathlon event, rested her head on Bjoergen’s shoulder with the Olympic champion in tears.
Heidi Weng, the bronze medallist, and Kristin Stoermer Steira joined them as the four, who wore an armband on the 15-km race, hugged.
“My fantastic girls... You are my strength in thick and thin. Thanks for the commemorating armbands. Forever grateful, whether there will be medals or not,” Jacobsen tweeted during the race.
Bjoergen patted her heart with her right palm seconds after the finish and then said the whole team had raced for Jacobsen.
“Yesterday was a really hard day and after things like this it is hard to focus on the race,” Bjoergen told a news conference. “Astrid and her family wanted us to race for her brother today and we stuck together and did a good race.”
Weng, competing in her first Olympics, took third place after outsprinting Johaug.
“I tried to stay focused but it was tough for us,” an overwhelmed Weng told a news conference.
Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla, who took silver behind Bjoergen, said she had also been shaken by the news.
“I didn’t know anything before entering the wax cabin. It was a lot of emotions before the race because they’re good friends to me, I didn’t know to handle it,” she said.
“I tried to keep focused in the race. It gives you perspective on the value of an Olympic medal. If they want to talk I’ll be there for them.”
Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Julian Linden and Ken Ferris