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St. Moritz 1948

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Martin Lundström - Cross-Country Skiing

Martin Lundström - Cross-Country Skiing
©IOC (2)

31/01/1948

Things were rarely quiet when Martin Lundström was around. Born into a family of 15 children, he had been a farm worker since he was a boy growing up in rural Sweden. Lundström began working in the woods when he was just 13 and also skied to school, growing into a tough young man who was utterly at home on snow.

He contracted tuberculosis when he was 21, and had to spend six months in a clinic to recover, but showed the resilience that was to become his trademark to recover to such an extent that, a year later, he was winning significant cross-country races.

He was still working in the forests until his late 20s, but then took a job in town and concentrated on his sport. The results were astounding – in 1947 Lundström won 12 out of the 19 races he started, including the warm-up event for the 1948 Olympic Winter Games. But few really expected him to win at the Game, having never won the national championship.

Instead the favourite for the 18km was another Swede, Nils Karlsson, known as Mora-Nisse. He set off quickly but then began to struggle, apparently having trouble breathing the thin air. Instead, it was Lundström, who had been apparently lumbered with the first Swedish number, who took control of the event, eventually holding off the challenge of two other Swedes – Nils Östensson and Gunnar Eriksson – to win by half a minute. Four Swedes finished in the top five; there were five Finns in the top ten.

In the 4x10km relay, Sweden's dominance was extraordinary. The weather was not kind and the Swedes, who had perfected a new style of cross-country skiing that their rivals had yet to master, were in a class of their own.

Lundström, who was on the anchor leg, even had time to stop and re-wax his skis before leading his nation home to take gold by a margin of nearly nine minutes, a level of dominance that has never been matched since. Finland, who took silver, were two minutes ahead of Norway, who were in turn nearly three minutes clear of fourth-placed Austria. Rarely in Olympic history have the finishing positions been more pronounced!

Lundström returned to the Olympic arena four years later when, at the age of 33, he took a bronze medal in the 4x10km relay. He continued working in the forests and competed in veteran skiing events until he was 80 years old.

St. Moritz 1948 photos

  • Henri Oreiller (FRA)

    French skier Henri Oreiller won two Olympic gold medals in Alpine skiing, in the downhill and the combined. In doing so, he became France’s first Olympic champion in Alpine skiing (St-Moritz 1948 OG)

    ©IOC

  • Gretchen Frazer (USA)

    Skier Gretchen Frazer was the first American woman to win an Alpine skiing gold medal, thanks to her victory in the slalom at St Moritz 1948

    ©IOC Lothar Rübelt

  • Action Button

    1948: Winter Olympic Games, St Moritz. Figure skating Harvard freshman, Richard (Dick) Button became Olympic champion at the age of eighteen, repeating the feat as a final year student four years later in Oslo. Mandatory Credit: Allsport Hulton/Archive

  • XAADG030

    Saint-Moritz 1948-Closing ceremony-the flags-holders and the nations flags.

  • XAADG052

    Saint-Moritz 1948-ENDRICH Felix and WALLER Friedrich (SUI) 1st, FEIERABEND Fritz and EBERHARD Paul Hans (SUI)

  • XAADG065

    Saint-Moritz 1948-BUTTON Richard (USA) 1st, GERSCHWILER Hans (SUI) 2nd et RADA Edi (AUT) 3rd.

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