The Greatest Cross-Country Skiers of All-Time: Bjorn Dæhlie and Marit Bjørgen

Here are some of the relevant statistics showing the records of the leading competitors in cross-country skiing in the major events.

The table is organised mainly by the number of wins in major races such as the world cup which is the first column. This is followed by the number of season-long World Cup titles in Distance World Cup, Sprint World Cup and Overall World Cup titles. Next come the championships with columns for World Championships (WCH) and Olympic Games (OG). This table only shows individual event titles as the numbers are distorted if you include team and relays in favour of those from strong nations. It should also be remembered that the World Cup was only started in 1979 and Sprint and Distance World Cup titles were only awarded from 1997 onwards which gives more titles to modern skiers. I have included in the tables the outstanding skiers from before the world cup showing their titles. There are also more events in the programme in modern times. The sport is more competitive than it used to be which offsets things to some extent. Taking these factors into account means that for me the most important columns in deciding the greatest cross-country skiers are the last three.

MEN

Skier Career World Cup       Champs  
    Wins Dist Spr Ov WCH OG
Bjørn Dæhlie 1989-1999 46   2 6 5 6
Petter Northug 2005-active 38 1   2 8 1
Gunde Svan 1983-1991 30     5 5 2
Vladimir Smirnov 1982-1999 30     2 4 1
Martin Johnsrud Sundby 2005-active 30 3   3    
Dario Cologna 2007-active 26 4   4 1 4
Lukáš Bauer 1997-active 18 1   2    
Emil Jönsson 2003-2018 16   3      
Johannes Høsflot Klæbo 2016-active 14   2 1   1
Sixten Jernberg 1952-1964         2 3
Veikko Hakulinen 1952-1963         2 2

Dæhlie is a fairly clear number one with the next two in the table second and third in my eyes though possibly with Svan in second. Fourth and fifth are Smirnov and Cologna with the bottom two names on the list,the champions from the 1950s and 1960s, next in my rankings.

WOMEN

third

Skier Career World Cup       Champs  
    Wins Dist Spr Ov WCH OG
Marit Bjørgen 1999-active 114 3 5 4 12 5
Justyna Kowalczyk 2001-active 50 4 1 4 2 2
Yelena Välbe 1987-1998 45 1   5 10  
Bente Skari 1992-2003 42   5 4 5 1
Therese Johaug 2007-active 42 3   3 4  
Virpi Kuitunen 1997-2010 27 2 1 2 1  
Petra Majdič 1999-2011 24 3        
Stefania Belmondo 1989-2002 23   1   4 2
Larisa Lazutina 1984-2002 21 2   2 5 2
Kateřina Neumannová 1992-2007 19       2 1
Marjo Matikainen 1984-1989 8     3 2 1
Alevtina Kolchina 1958-1968         5  
Raisa Smetanina 1974-1992       1 1 2
Lyubov Yegorova 1984-2003 13     1 1 4
Marja-Liisa Kirvesniemi 1982-1994 11     2 3 1
Galina Kulakova 1968-1980       1 3 2
Manuela Di Centa 1982-1998 15     2   2

Marit Bjørgen is easily the greatest female cross-country skier of all-time with Valbe second even though she didn’t win an Olympic gold. Kowalczyk, Skari and Lazutina are closely matched for third with the skiers from earlier years Kolchina, Matikainen, Kirvesniemi and Kulakova.

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