The Associated Press KRASNAYA POLYANA (AP)—If a foot fracture couldn’t stop Justyna Kowalczyk, a bit of sunshine certainly wasn’t about to.
Kowalczyk ignored the pain in her injured foot and the warm weather beating down on the women’s cross-country skiers Thursday to win Olympic gold in the 10-kilometer classic race.
As her rivals tired in the heat, Kowalczyk showed exactly why this is her signature event, powering forward relentlessly toward the finish line to finish in 28 minutes 17.8 seconds. Silver medalist Charlotte Kalla of Sweden was 18.4 seconds back, while Therese Johaug of Norway took bronze, 28.3 seconds behind.
“It’s something big for me because I broke my foot two weeks ago,” said Kowalczyk, who wept during the flower ceremony.
“It was only tears of joy,” she said. “I think it was the hardest 10K of my life, especially the last big uphill. I was fighting with my body. In the last 30 meters I was almost walking. I was so tired.”
This was always supposed to be the best chance for gold for Kowalczyk, a four-time overall World Cup winner who specializes in classical-style skiing. But then she injured her left foot in January, and suddenly it was unclear whether she’d be able to live up to her status as favorite—especially after she posted an X-ray on her Facebook page this week showing a fracture.
Kowalczyk said she took a strong pain killer before the race that numbs the foot for three hours.
“I felt an ache in my foot, but I overcame it,” she said. “We knew what we were here for. It was unlucky that it happened to me. Everything was going wrong, but I am not one of these people who give up.”
She probably won’t mind the pain too much after earning her second career gold medal, having won the 30K classical race in Vancouver four years ago.
That time, she beat Marit Bjoergen of Norway in a tight sprint finish. On Thursday, there was never any drama as no one could keep up.