Haga clocked a time of 25 minutes, 00.5 seconds, which was more than 20 seconds. faster than the rest of the 90-strong field at the Alpensia Cross Country Skiing Arena. Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla, the pre-race favourite, took silver, while Norway’s Marit Bjoergen and Finn Krista Parmakoski tied for the bronze medal.
Kalla, who won the women's skiathlon on Saturday 10 February, looked on course to win her second and Sweden's third women's cross-country gold of the Games, but Haga, who is ninth in the overall World Cup standings, had other plans.
She accelerated away on the second lap, building up a huge lead over Bjoergen, who won a 12th Olympic Winter Games medal, as she passed the 8.4-kilometre split and kept up the pace all the way to the finish line.
Kalla, who won gold in this event in Vancouver in 2010, tried to up the tempo but she did not have enough in the tank to close the gap.
The 37-year-old Bjoergen, who has now won two medals at PyeongChang 2018 after landing silver in the women’s 15km pursuit, inched closer to reaching Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, the most decorated female in Olympic Winter Games history, and her an all-time record of 13 medals.
Haga revealed that she was immensely satisfied with the way she finished her race. She said: "When I started the last downhill I was thinking that 'This is the most important downhill of your life. You better stay on your feet.' I gave it all I had because I feared that Charlotte [Kalla] would go even faster at the end of her race. The way that I grabbed this opportunity - wow, I am truly satisfied with myself.”
Haga also enjoyed a good start, and she admitted to feeling strong throughout the race. “I have trained a lot on the 10km free this year and I got a feeling that I had a good start in terms of speed. I know I had to do better than I have previously to follow the others from the start. I got feedback during the race that said I had not dropped too many seconds and I had not used too much energy, and I felt it could be a good one. But I was frightened of Kalla on the last round."
Finn Parmakoski admits she felt thrilled to share the bronze medal with Bjoergen, and that she would not rather have won it on her own. “I think that it's better that both of us can get the third place today,” she said. “Marit was one of my idols when I was a young girl, so it's nice to be fighting together with her, it's a feeling that is so amazing.”
"I'm really happy about my race,” she continued. “I think that I was two seconds behind Marit before this last uphill. I just thought that I have to push, and after I came to the finish line I checked my time position to see that we have the same time. It's feeling so great. I'm happy that we both can stand on the podium today.”
photo Wagner Araujo
photo Jay Adeff