PYEONGCHANG (Reuters) - Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla got her tactics exactly right in Saturday’s Olympic women’s skiathlon as she made her break for gold, but coach Johan Granath was left on tenterhooks to see if her timing would pay off.
Kalla, who was runner-up to Norway’s Marit Bjoergen in Sochi in 2014, made her break at the start of the final lap, opening up a lead that saw her cross the finish line 7.8 seconds ahead of her Norwegian rival to take the first gold of the Pyeongchang Winter Games.
“The tactic was to take it easy on the freestyle part and try to be at the front of the field, and then go for it, either here in the stadium or where she did it,” Granath told Reuters.
“You never know how a race will develop — she could have easily had Marit or Krista (Parmakoski, who came third) with her, and then she would have had to go in the next hill, or the next hill,” he explained.
Granath had no need to worry as Kalla was never in danger of being reeled in by Bjoergen, whose silver made her the first woman to win 11 medals at the Olympic Winter Games.
“It felt that it was very controlled... we felt that nothing would happen on the freestyle part, so it was about keeping your powder dry for the skate-style part,” he said.
The Swedish coach was also pleased with the performances of 20-year-old Ebba Andersson, who came fourth, and Stina Nilsson, who finished in tenth spot, and said that Kalla’s win would lift the whole team.
“It give us an incredible energy in our cross-country camp, and really for the whole Olympic team. If gives us peace to work, and the girls realise that they are in good form.” Granath said.
“Clearly, it boosts our self-confidence so that we can look forward with cautious optimism to future competitions.”
Editing by Clare Fallon