Bjørndalen aims high with new goals

The decorated biathlete considers a return to “simple” cross-country skiing

Photo: Wikijunkie / Wikimedia Commons Bjørndalen skiing in the 2014 World Cup.

Photo: Wikijunkie / Wikimedia Commons
Bjørndalen skiing in the 2014 World Cup.

Molly Jones
Norwegian American Weekly

With Norway’s winter sports season quickly approaching, it’s only natural that Ole Einar Bjørndalen comes to mind. But what is the most-decorated Winter Olympian up to these days?

NRK reports that the eight-time gold medalist is considering a return to cross-country skiing—but don’t worry, he’s not packing away his rifle. The biathlon season opens on November 14, and Bjørndalen looks forward to another successful year and improvement in his shooting accuracy. He feels that he underperformed in his shooting last year and has been working hard to prepare for this season.

“I must reach a higher hit rate in the winter if I will have the chance to fight in the good races. I especially need an increase on standing,” he notes. His stats from last year report an 87 percent hit rate while lying down but only 78 percent rate while standing. But he’s trained hard and expects to see better results this year.

Photo: Glawster / Wikimedia Commons  If Bjørndalen is to continue competing in biathlon he’ll need to work on his scores shooting while standing.

Photo: Glawster / Wikimedia Commons
If Bjørndalen is to continue competing in biathlon he’ll need to work on his scores shooting while standing.

Of course it makes sense that he would consider returning to cross-country skiing if he’s still struggling with the shooting component of biathlon. “Cross-country skiing is very simple. Either you go fast enough, or you do not go fast enough. And if you go quickly enough, it is incredibly interesting,” explains Bjørndalen.

But it’s been eight years since Bjørndalen took his one and only World Cup victory in cross-country skiing, and the sport has continued to develop over time.

“It was fun,” he recalls from his cross-country experience. “Now it’s not just a few good skaters, but a dozen, so it’s tough to get on the Norwegian team. But we’ll see; if I get in top shape, I can go quite fast.”

But some wonder if it’s the right move considering Bjørndalen’s age of 40 years. NRK’s biathlon expert Ola Lunde, for example, thinks Bjørndalen would be better off sticking with the biathlon.

“He will be 41 to 42 years old, and I think it will be tough even for Ole Einar. He is not as fast now as when he won the World Cup race in cross country,” replied Lunde when asked if he thinks Bjørndalen can compete with the best.

Bjørndalen admits that he feels his age is affecting his performance, but believes his youthful determination will keep him going for years to come. “Mentally, I am just as motivated as when I was 29, but I notice my age with difficult workouts,” he comments.

Whether he takes up cross-country skiing again or not, Bjørndalen is committed to the development of the biathlon in Norway. He has recently developed a new program that donates high-quality guns to Norwegian biathlon clubs. Each team will now receive 14 rifles (which can cost up to 29,000 kroner each) over a four-year period, with help from Skiskytterforbundet and Bjørndalen’s personal sponsor, XL Bygg. He believes that this will positively affect the sport, as many more children will have access to good equipment.

It will be interesting to see what Bjørndalen decides, and how well he will perform if he does compete in cross country again. But no matter what Bjørndalen’s future holds, we can be sure he will put forward an outstanding performance.

This article originally appeared in the Nov. 7, 2014, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.

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