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Bjorn Daehlie - 1998 Olympic Games

Bjorn Daehlie - 1998 Olympic Games

Measuring a true champion goes beyond their hardware and titles. Real champions of sport have hearts of lions, witnessed both through their competitive spirit and through their respect for the competition.

During the 1998 Winter Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan, Bjorn Daehlie not only cemented his legacy as the biggest individual winner in Winter Olympics history, but also as one of the best sportsmen to ever compete on any stage. Of his 12 Olympic Medals, including 8 gold, the 3 won in Japan in 1998 were the hardest to achieve and also introduced the world to a true competitor.

Bjorn Daehlie

Born on June 19, 1967 in Elverum, Norway, Bjorn Erlend Daehlie is a successful real estate and fashion mogul, and most notably a retired cross-country skier.

During his tenure as a skier, the Norwegian earned an impressive 12 Olympic medals, 18 World Championships medals, and won multiple races on the cross-country circuit. Considered as perhaps the best racer in his genre, Daehlie retired from the sport while still on top, having suffered an injury which kept him from competing in the 2002 Olympic Games.

Bjorn's True Grit on Display in Japan

One would need an entire series of articles to speak about the illustrious career of Bjorn Daehlie. Prior to entering the 1998 Winter Games in Japan, Bjorn had already accumulated 8 medals in total, including 5 gold and 3 silver medals. He won an array of events, including the 10km + 15km combined pursuit, the 50km, the 4 x 10km, and the 30km. A versatile athlete, Bjorn wasn't considered to have a strong or weak event. He was simply a cross-country juggernaut who took stamina to entirely new levels. This was apparent early in his career when he dominated the field at Albertville in 1992, and still evident in Lillehammer in 1994 when he repeated those results.

While not competing in the Olympics and dominating the competition, Daehlie was on the World Championship circuit amassing medals hand over fist in the same lengthy events. Not only would he win multiple races, but often his opponents would take minutes to cross the finish line as Bjorn was cooling down and celebrating his title. This was the theme throughout the entire 1990s, and going into Japan for the Winter Games in 1998, Bjorn was still the odds-on favorite to medal in all four events he entered.

However, with the third Olympic Games approaching in Daehlie's career, his previous wins painted a scarlet letter on his chest. When someone is in the top spot for so long, everyone else brings their A-game in an attempt to knock them from the podium. Up until 1998, Bjorn had only been bested a few times in his career, but older now and having raced so often in such a short time frame, the field was more open than ever entering Japan.

Nagano was a different playing field, and this was evidenced early on in the 50km freestyle. Although Daehlie won the race, he only won by 8 seconds – which, in cross-country skiing, isn't by much at all. And along with his opponent, Nicklas Jonsson, Bjorn collapsed at the finish line. Having given everything in the tank and barely winning; and also losing to Thomas Alsgaard during the sprint portion of the pursuit, earning a silver, other races seemed in doubt.

During the 10km race, Bjorn proved once again that he was still at the top of his game, beating his next closest opponent, Phillip Boit, by 20 minutes. However, in an unprecedented show of sportsmanship, Daehlie waited at the finish line for Boit and cheered him on. The two men forged a lasting friendship after the Games.

All told, Bjorn would earn 3 gold medals and 1 silver medal in his 1998 Olympic run. According to Daehlie, these were the hardest races he had ever run. Even still, Bjorn was able to muster the strength and courage to win 3 of the 4 he entered.

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