January 7, 2018 / 1:17 PM / 15 days ago

Norway's Bjoergen eying medal history in Pyeongchang

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Four years after equalling the record for the number of Olympic medals won by a woman, 37-year-old cross-country skier Marit Bjoergen will be aiming to make that accolade her own in Pyeongchang as she leads the Norwegian medal charge.

Bjoergen has collected 10 Olympic medals, the same number as fellow cross-country skiers Raisa Smetanina of Russia and Italy’s Stefania Belmondo, and another, of any hue, at the 2018 Games will put her out there on her own.

With more gold medals than either of those two, Bjoergen is arguably the most successful female athlete in the history of the Games, and few would bet against her adding to her tally.

“The Olympics are my goal. This will be my last Olympics, so I want to do all I can to be as well-prepared as possible for it,” she said in a recent interview.

Bjoergen, who won gold in the 15 km skiathlon, team sprint and 30km freestyle events in Sochi, has returned from maternity leave as dominant as ever.

She and her Norwegian team-mates swept the board clean of women’s cross-country medals at the 2017 World Championships in Lahti, Finland, with Bjoergen picking up three individual wins and one team victory as Norway topped the overall medals table.

A superb skier in both the classic and skating styles, Bjoergen says the birth of her son Marius in December 2015 has changed things somewhat.

“I get time to train, (but) the challenge is to get enough recovery and rest. When you don’t rest enough it affects your training,” she told reporters recently.

Facing questions seldom put to her male counterparts, Bjoergen said she was contemplating changing her child-care arrangements to avoid picking up any illnesses.

“You can never guarantee yourself against it, but we have considered keeping Marius out of day-care in January so that he’s home until I travel to the Olympics. It’s to be completely on the safe side,” she explained.

Bjoergen has also chosen not to participate in the Tour de Ski as she prepares for Pyeongchang.

“For me, it works to drop the Tour de Ski. In the championships I have done well in, I haven’t competed in the Tour de Ski, so that’s the situation I‘m in. I think it’s too much time away if I was to compete there too,” she said.

Reporting by Philip O'Connor, additional reporting by Haidar Hajdari; editing by Amlan Chakraborty

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