Home and away Games
Just short of 30 years old, the hard-working appears to be peaking at the right time. She won three events at the ultra-competitive Norwegian national championships in the last week of January: the 10km free (by a whopping 71 seconds), the classic sprint and the 15km pursuit. Whether her domestic and international success has any link remains to be seen, but consider this: Even in her underachieving 2006 Olympic experience, she won her only medal - a silver - in the only event that she won at nationals a couple weeks earlier.
Bjørgen was the women's overall World Cup champion in 2005 and 2006, and the runner-up for the title in 2004 and 2007. However, her two most recent seasons were nothing to write home about. Therefore, her form to begin this season showed that she should be a force to reckon with at Whistler Olympic Park. She captured two World Cup victories - her first since 2007 - in the 10km free in Beitostolen, Norway and the classic sprint in Rogla, Slovenia. Both of these events are on the Olympic program, and she will be among the favorites.
Having won five medals - three gold - at the 2005 World Championships, Bjørgen came into the 2006 Torino Games as the leading lady of cross-country skiing with medal potential in all six events. However, they became a disaster. Not only did she deal with bodily ailments - bronchitis prior to the Games, and stomach flu early on - but also the overwhelming pressure of her home country. She came away with a silver medal in the 10 km classical, but endured some humiliation when she anchored the Norwegian 4x5km relay team to fifth place, its worst result since 1988. To top it off, she flew home early, skipping the final race, the 30km freestyle, altogether.
Bjørgen, who finished her degree in anatomy and physiology last June from a Norwegian university, recently got the green light from the World Anti-Doping Agency to use an asthma medication that is on the WADA list of banned substances. She had to meet several strict requirements in order to get the OK.
As the pilot for the USA-1 bobsled, I broke a 62-year gold medal drought when my sled, the 'Night Train" won the Olympic title at the 2010 Vancouver Games. A degenerative eye condition nearly caused me to quit my sport in 2008, but corrective surgery restored my vision to 20-20.