Oslo (AFP) – Norway’s legendary cross-country skier Marit Bjorgen, who won an eighth gold medal at last month’s Winter Olympics, on Friday said she would call it quits at the age of 38.
“I don’t feel I have the motivation required to give 100 percent for another season, that’s why I’m quitting,” she told Norwegian public broadcaster NRK.
She became the most successful athlete in Winter Olympic history on February 21 when she took bronze behind a stunning win for USA in cross-country skiing’s women’s team sprint free in Pyeongchang.
Dubbed “Golden Marit” for winning 15 Olympic medals, including eight gold, she surpassed her “Cannibal” compatriot Ole Einar Bjorndalen who retired earlier this week at the age of 44.
Bjorgen is also the second most successful woman at either the Summer or Winter Games, trailing only Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina with 18 medals.
“I thought that this would be easier to announce. I’m touched. It has been an era in my life for over 20 years,” the mother of one tearfully told NRK.
“So it’s special to say that this is my last season as top athlete,” she added.
Bjorgen was showered with tributes after the news broke on Friday from fellow competitors and politicians alike.
“She was terribly important to me, she was my idol,” said Therese Johaug, a seven-time world champion and former Olympic gold medallist who was suspended after failing a drug test.
“You have been a source of inspiration and a role model, you made us jump with joy and scream with excitement,” former Norwegian Prime Minister and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg wrote on his Twitter account.