Marit Bjoergen celebrates her 30km victory.
Norway's three-pronged attack took to the slopes early on in Saturday's Cross Country 30km Mass Start event, and it was Marit Bjoergen who recorded gold.
Bjoergen, 33, picks up her sixth gold medal and becomes the most decorated female Winter Olympian—per BBC Sport, now boasting 10 medals in her career.
Therese Johaug and Kristin Stoermer Steira gained silver and bronze medals respectively, in a race that started surprisingly slowly for the trio.
Several challenges from Finland's Kerttu Niskanen had the front-three looking over their shoulders for the opening 5km, but experience told from the 10km mark as Bjoergen began to dominate the course, leaving Johaug and Stoermer to battle for second place.
Despite plenty of overtaking between the three skiers, it was Bjoergen who held on to seal gold for Norway, who continue to challenge at the top of the overall medals table.
|1||Marit BJOERGEN (Norway)||1:11:05.2||0.0|
|2||Therese JOHAUG (Norway)||1:11:07.8||+2.6|
|3||Kristin Stoermer STEIRA (Norway)||1:11:28.8||+23.6|
|4||Kerttu NISKANEN (Finland)||1:12:26.9||+1:21.7|
|5||Eva VRABCOVA - NYVLTOVA (Czech Republic)||1:12:27.1||+1:21.9|
Before the race got underway, Norway's ski team posted a picture on Twitter to entice Swedish skier Charlotte Kalla to go all-out, after she overcame a 25-second deficit from the Norwegian trio in the Cross-Country Relay:
However, it was quick to see from the outset in this event that Kalla, who had been suffering from a cold during the week, wasn't at top pace. She started slow and struggled to make ground on the leading pack in the opening 5km, posting her finish in 34th place as conditions and illness got the better of her.
Associated Press reporter Matias Karen tweeted of Kalla's run:
Charlotte Kalla didn't "come out and play" as Norwegians had asked. 1:45 back now. Had a cold a few days ago.— Mattias Karén (@mattekaren) February 22, 2014
Niskanen had threatened to jump into the top three, occasionally leaping into third spot ahead of Steira in the opening 10km, but she fell away at the halfway point. Niskanen eventually fought back against Eva Vrabcova-Nyvltova to take fourth spot—sitting one minute, 21.7 seconds behind the third-placed Norwegian.
Bjoergen made her presence felt throughout the race, with a strong and consistent run across 15km of snow. She was being challenged by her compatriots who showed no signs of sentiment; each out to seal their own gold medal ambitions.
After 18km, Bjoergen's showed her battling qualities having lost her lead to Johaug, as tweeted by USA Today's Martha Bellisle:
At 18 km Norway's Johaug, Bjoergen, Steira off front of 30km XC. Have 40 second lead #Sochi2014— MarthaBellisle (@marthabellisle) February 22, 2014
Bjoergen always had things under control though, and she trusted her sprinting prowess to eventually reclaim her lead and extend to a 0.3 second advantage.
Steira upped her own performance and fought her way into second place, but could do nothing as Johaug ran rampant to seal second spot and her silver medal.
After the race, Bjoergen told BBC Sport of her delight at winning, and pleasure that her tactic paid off:
It's incredible. I thought it would be hard but I've felt good. I knew that I am stronger in the sprints, so I was waiting for them to attack on the last climb.
French pair Aurore Jean and Coraline Hugue attempted to get among the medals, but there was no stopping the Norwegian trio as they secured all three positions.
It was a good run for Bjoergen, who has already picked up three gold medals in this year's Winter Olympic Games in the Ladies' Skiathlon 7.5km Classic, 7.5km Free Skiathlon and the Ladies' Team Sprint Classic.
With her teammates in such fine form in this year's competition, it's no wonder to see Norway leading the gold medal count with ten triumphs.
Such form lays down a marker for the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang. Norway's lock on the medals will take some challenging in four years' time, and it would be no surprise to see a Norwegian winner of this event again when the next Games arrive.