Solberg makes biathlon history
Magnar Solberg came to Sapporo knowing he had the chance to make history. Nobody had ever retained an individual Olympic biathlon title.Soberg had been a fairly comfortable winner of the 20km in Grenoble four years earlier, but now, at the age of 34, he was up against a tough field and some difficult conditions.
Despite his status as reigning champion, Solberg was not the favourite in Sapporo. The Soviet Union's Aleksandr Tikhonov, who had taken silver behind the Norwegian in Grenoble, had since established himself as biathlon's dominant star, consistently beating Solberg at world championship events. In fact, Solberg's form ahead of the Games was so patchy that he only just earned selection for the Norwegian team. In fact, he wasn't included in the original line-up, but the selectors decided to give him one final opportunity to prove his form and, not for the first time, he produced his best under the greatest pressure.
The event had to be postponed by a day due to a snow storm that made shooting all-but impossible. The next morning the conditions were better and the contest got under way.
With the pressure again at its greatest, Solberg once more delivered his best form. He led after the first round of shooting, while Tikhonov was well back. But then things became complicated.
Sweden's Lars-Göran Arwidson took over at the front, with Italy's Willy Bertin flying in second, and Solberg gradually falling back to seventh. After the third round, Bertin assumed the lead, while Solberg had crept back up to fourth place, just ahead of Arwidson. It was clear that the final shooting round would be decisive.
Bertin suffered four penalty minutes, and dropped right out of contention for a medal. By contrast, Solberg shot perfectly and went into the lead, ahead of East Germany's Hansjörg Knauthe. The two athletes then found themselves locked in a sprint for the line. It was close, but Solberg had the fitness, skill and experience to hold on and took the gold by 12 seconds, this becoming the first man to retain the title. The Norwegian retired from top-level sport shortly afterwards and became a police officer.