Bronze for Bjørndalen
Norway’s renowned biathlete wins his 58th championship medal in Hochfilzen, Austria
Jo Christian Weldingh
At the age of 43, legendary biathlete Ole Einar Bjørndalen won the bronze medal in the World Championship pursuit race on February 12, making his already impressive collection of individual world championship medals increase to 26.
Fellow Norwegian Johannes Thingnes Bø, 20 years younger, won the silver, while Martin Fourcade from France won the gold. “It was a fantastic race for me. It feels like a victory, this! I’m very pleased. Silver for Darya was also great,” Bjørndalen said to the press, talking about his wife Belarusian Darya Domracheva winning a silver medal earlier that day. “Her race was actually more important for me than my own today. Her medal is extremely motivating, and it’s a relief for the whole family.”
Bjørndalen and Bø’s medals are a bright point in what has been an otherwise bleak championship for the Norwegian biathletes. Not winning any gold medals in a championship is unheard of for Norway, and who’s to blame will be discussed in the Norwegian press in the weeks to come.
The unquestionable world leader this season, Fourcade, redeemed himself after missing twice and coming in third on the sprint on February 11. On the pursuit race, he was excellent and won with more than 20 seconds. Still, Bjørndalen’s race might be even more impressive, his age taken into account. Starting as number eight, almost 40 seconds behind Benedict Doll from Germany, he overtook four people to win the bronze, while missing only once and skiing almost as fast as Fourcade.
Fourcade was impressed with his older colleague and said his records might be unbeatable. “If I’m going to beat his records, he has to stop winning soon,” he said jokingly to the press. Fourcade has 11 World Championships, while Bjørndalen has 20. If he competes until he’s in his mid-40s he might have a chance, but Fourcade himself seems sure he won’t be. “In 15 years I’ll be chopping tomatoes and drinking wine in the south of France. Or at least that’s the plan. Never say never.”
Bjørndalen is the most medaled Olympian in the history of the Winter Olympic Games, with 13 medals. He is also the most successful biathlete of all time at the Biathlon World Championships, having won 44 medals—more than double that of any other biathlete except Fourcade. With 95 World Cup wins, Bjørndalen is ranked first all-time for career victories on the Biathlon World Cup tour, again more than twice that of anyone else but Fourcade. He has won the Overall World Cup title six times, in 1997–98, 2002–03, 2004–05, 2005–06, 2007–08, and 2008–09, more than any other male biathlete and equal to female record holder Magdalena Forsberg.
Jo Christian Weldingh grew up in Lillehammer, Norway, but is currently living in Oslo. He has a BA in Archaeology from The University of Oslo and a BA in Business Administration from BI Norwegian Business School.
This article originally appeared in the March 10, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.