Bjørndalen to continue biathlon career

The King of Biathlon announces decision to compete through the 2018 Olympics

Photo: IBU / Faster Skier Norway’s Ole Einar Bjørndalen celebrates silver in the men’s 10k sprint on April 2 at the first individual race of IBU World Championships in Oslo, Norway.

Photo: IBU / Faster Skier
Norway’s Ole Einar Bjørndalen celebrates silver in the men’s 10k sprint on April 2 at the first individual race of IBU World Championships in Oslo, Norway.

Chelsea Little
Faster Skier

“I was getting old, and the subject came up again—but I defied the experts and ran on ahead.”

When Ole Einar Bjørndalen decided to push forward with his biathlon career after two tough seasons in 2012 and 2013, it was with a big prize in his sights: the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

There, he won a gold medal in the 10 k sprint to become the oldest Olympic gold medalist, at 40 years old.

But a new and perhaps sweeter prize beckoned: the 2016 World Championships at home in Oslo, Norway. Again, Bjørndalen ignored those calling for him to retire and give younger Norwegian teammates a chance on the World Cup circuit.

Many assumed that after the Oslo races, Bjørndalen—now 42 years old—would finally call it quits. And though he didn’t say that he would for sure retire, he gave hints, for instance telling the IOC that he couldn’t fully fulfill his role on their Athlete Committee until after Oslo because he was busy training to be in his top form. The implication was that after 2016, his duties as an athlete would be lighter.

But in a press conference after winning bronze in the 15 k mass start Oslo, his fourth medal of the championships, Bjørndalen said that he hadn’t yet decided about retirement and would make an announcement during the spring.

That announcement came on Tuesday, April 5, when the star—the winningest biathlete of all time—said that he would continue two more years, to the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.

“I still think that I can perform at the top in a few years,” he said in the press conference. “When I can perform so well with a tough introduction to the season, and the body is responding well, it shows that the difference is small from 25 years ago.”

Bjørndalen has 94 World Cup biathlon victories to his name, plus one in cross-country skiing, and is searching for more. He has won a total of 57 World Championship and Olympic medals, including 28 golds—the last of which was in the men’s relay at 2016 World Championships in Oslo.

“I look forward to embark on a new season,” he continued. “The reason I continue is that I have a huge motivation. I feel as motivated as when I was 20 years old.”

Some changes are on the horizon, however. He has agreed to step down from his position with the International Olympic Committee, for example.

“I must apologize that I have not done as much as I should have done,” he admitted. “I like to keep on with what I do. I think I can accomplish more in sports than with the IOC right now.”

And the biggest change? Bjørndalen will become a father. He has been in a relationship with Belorussian biathlete Darya Domracheva, although the two have rarely explicitly addressed it in the media; fans instead have gathered the details through media photos.

Domracheva, the 2015 World Cup Total Score winner and a three-time Olympic gold medalist herself, took the 2015-2016 season off due to exhaustion.

Bjørndalen announced that the two are expecting a child in October.

“The decision was taken together with Darya,” he said. “It takes a bit of organizing, but there are some who have done it before us… It is very exciting to be a father. I have great family home and am used to kids… I look forward to it. It is a new value in life. I really appreciate that I get to experience it.”

This article was originally published on Faster Skier. View the original article at fasterskier.com/blog/article/bjorndalen-to-continue-biathlon-career-expecting-child-with-domracheva-in-october/.

It also appeared in the April 15, 2016, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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