Dæhlie dominates in cross-country skiing
Bjørn Dæhlie had lit up the Albertville Games in 1992 by winning four medals – including three golds – and establishing himself as the star of men’s cross-country skiing. The question was whether he could live up to those lofty standards in Lillehammer two years later.
Dæhlie entered five events and was the main focus of the Norwegian public. His first event was the 30km freestyle, held on Valentine’s Day, which saw him start as favourite. He started in 60th spot but led at all checkpoints before crossing the line in a healthy time of 1 hour 13 minutes and 13.6 secs. However, while he felt he had done enough to win, he was overtaken by his lesser known countryman Thomas Alsgaard. Alsgaard was 3.6 secs behind at the first checkpoint, but went into the lead at the second. From there, he extended his advantage to end up winning by 47 secs. It would only be silver for Dæhlie.
Three days later, though, came a return to the top of the podium, with victory in the 10km. This time he won comfortably, beating Kazakhstan’s Vladimir Smirnov by a big margin. Two days after that success he took that confidence into the pursuit. Dæhlie was the defending champion after having won the 1993 world title and, thanks to his victory in the 10km, he went off first in the freestyle section. Despite Kazakh star Smirnov once again mounting a serious challenge, Dæhlie took his second victory.
What came next was, perhaps, the most eagerly anticipated event of the Games – the 4 x 10km relay. Five per cent of the Norwegian population had applied for tickets, and every spectator area was packed. The race turned into a thrilling contest between Italy and Norway, with Dæhlie on the anchor leg for the home nation.
It turned into a joust between him and Silvio Fauner, who skied just behind Dæhlie for the whole leg, refusing to attack until the closing moments.
At that point, he sprinted past Dæhlie and held on to win by 0.4 secs. The Norwegian had to again settle for silver – taking his haul for the Games to two golds, and two silvers.
Dæhlie won another three golds and one silver in Nagano four years later, before becoming a businessman in both property and fashion and, true to form, he proved hugely successful at both.