In the 1990s, Norway’s Bjørn Dæhlie established himself as the most successful cross-country skier in history, notching up 29 Olympic and world championship podiums, including eight golds at the Winter Games and seven world titles. Additionally, he scored a total of 46 victories in the FIS World Cup and won no less than six large crystal globes. Up until Sochi 2014, when he was overtaken by his compatriot, the biathlete Ole Einar Bjørndalen, he held the record for the most Olympic medals won by a winter athlete, with 12 in total, achieved over the course of three editions of the Games (Albertville 1992, Lillehammer 1994 and Nagano 1998).
On the Saisies cross country course at Albertville 1992, Dæhlie made a blistering Olympic debut, finishing on four of the five podiums in the men’s cross country events. His first triumph came in the 25km pursuit, and he followed that up with golds in the 50km and then in the 4x10km relay alongside Terje Langli, Kristen Skejdal and his role model Vegard Ulvang. He added a silver in the 30km and finished just off the podium in the 10km.
He was equally imperious when the Winter Games came to his native Norway two years later, again taking medals in four of the five cross country events at Lillehammer 1994: gold in the 10km and 25km pursuit, and silver in the 30km and the 4x10km relay. Once more he narrowly missed out on a ‘full house’ of medals, finishing fourth in the 50km.
It was déjà vu all over again at Nagano 1998, though this time three of Dæhlie’s four medals were gold, as he topped the podium in the 10km, the 50km and the 4x10km relay (this time with Thomas Alsgaard, Erling Jevne and Sture Sivertsen), adding a silver in the 15km.
The following year, after picking up his latest large crystal globe in the 1999 FIS World Cup, Dæhlie announced his retirement from competition. A national icon in Norway, he went on to forge a successful business career.
Dæhlie enjoyed a truly fabulous career, packed with triumphs and highlights… but what does he regard as his greatest moment as an Olympian? The date is 17 February 1994. The place is Lillehammer, in his native Norway. Wearing the N°1 bib, he entered the stadium for the final 100m of the 10km, cheered on by the delirious crowds that that flanked the home straight. The Norwegian even managed to take the time to salute the local fans, before crossing the finish line and doing a triumphant 360° pirouette on his skis to celebrate an emotional victory. “When I look through the whole of my career, at all my moments in cross country, this was the most fantastic,” he says…