Sverre Farstad, an amazing all-rounder
Some athletes are born to their sport. They know from a young age where their skill lies, and work on that single sport. But others are gifted in multiple activities – allrounders who have the different challenge of knowing which sport should end up as the focus of their concentration.
Among their number was Sverre Farstad, whose allround excellence found its reward in St Moritz. Farstad delivered a gold in the 1500m speed skating, a triumph for one of the most talented athletes that Norway produced in this era.
Already an accomplished skater, Farstad trained as both a weightlifter and as a gymnast during the war, when competitive sport had largely ceased. He also competed in swimming, shooting and wrestling.
He wasn't merely an enthusiastic trainer, though – Farstad was twice the runner-up in Norway’s national weightlifting championship and he won bronze as a rower in the Norwegian championship. He could have focused on either of those and reached international level - but it was as a speed skater that he truly excelled.
Farstad came to the Games considered among the world’s best 1500m skaters, although the long interruption for the war meant nobody was wholly clear as to standards around the world. Farstad had won an overall bronze medal at the European Championships the previous year, having won the 1500m race. He also took silver at the world championships, on the back of three race wins.
In St Moritz, Farstad set a time of 2 minutes 17.6 seconds that was clearly going to be very hard to beat. The only person who approached it was Sweden's Åke Seyffarth, who was ahead of his time for the first three laps but could not match the blistering speed of Farstad's final circuit.
Farstad won the allround European title the following season to cement his world-class status but, having failed to qualify for the world championships due to illness, he retired from competition in 1951. He became a journalist, a job he was to pursue for nearly three decades, but also found time to become a fine speed skating coach, most notably with the Italian team in the 1950s.