What Samppa Lajunen’s career lacked in longevity, it more than made up for in brilliance and power when it mattered most. Like many teenagers, the young Nordic combined competitor was more interested in cultivating a career in the music industry than competing at the highest level of winter sport, but the Finn indelibly etched his name in the Olympic record books with a unique treble at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City.
Lajunen, from Turku, was just 18 when he made his first major impression at the Winter Games winning silver medals in the individual and team events at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan.
He claimed a team world title in Ramsau, Austria the following year but his performances leading up to the Games in Utah gave little warning as to what was to come.
In the opening individual event, Lajunen, an at times spectacular jumper, finished the first discipline in third after team-mate Jaarko Tallus had put in two formidable leaps at the Park City hill.
Lajunen was 53 seconds in arrears of Tallus as they started the 15km cross country skiing course not for a minute did he look incapable of reeling in the deficit. He eventually took gold by almost 25 seconds under the clear blue skies at the Soldier Hollow course.
In only the fifth time the team event had been staged, a crushing performance on the hill gave Finland a sizable lead going into the ski, but Germany made it a nervous occasion.
Much of the Finnish lead was gone by the time their opening skier had completed the course but Lajunen anchored the quartet home to gold despite being the sixth fastest overall on the day.
Lajunen then completed the hat-trick in the inaugural staging of the 7.5km sprint. His grinding technique and seemingly endless powers of stamina guided Lajunen home, nine seconds clear of German Ronny Ackerman who had come so close in upstaging the Finns in the team event.
He retired from competitive sport less than two years later to pursue an economics degree.