Setting the standard for Swiss cross-country skiing
A four-time Olympic gold medallist and the only man to have won the same cross-country event (the 15km) three times in a row, Dario Cologna is Switzerland’s greatest cross-country skier of all time. A four-time FIS World Cup winner, he is his country’s only Olympic champion in the discipline and one of only three athletes, along with gymnast George Miez and ski jumper Simon Ammann, to have topped the Olympic podium on four occasions.
Brought up in Santa Maria Val Müstair, situated in eastern Graubünden (SUI), Dario Cologna showed an aptitude for sport early on, but settled on cross-country skiing when he was in his early teens.
By the age of 20, he had won a bronze medal in the 10km classical at the 2006 FIS Junior World Ski Championships in Kranj (SLO), and made his FIS World Cup debut later that same year. After two seasons finding his bearings on the international stage, in the 2008/09 season the young skier made Swiss sporting history by doing the FIS Tour de Ski and FIS World Cup ‘double’.
Victorious in Vancouver
In the autumn of 2009, while preparing for a new season, Cologna suffered a muscle tear in his right thigh that sidelined him for six weeks and forced him to concentrate exclusively on the Vancouver Games. On 15 February 2010, he triumphed in the 15km freestyle at Whistler Olympic Park, finishing ahead of Pietro Piller Cottrer (ITA) and Lukas Bauer (CZE) to become Switzerland’s first ever Olympic cross-country skiing champion.
On top of the world
Cologna subsequently topped the overall World Cup standings at the end of the 2010/11 and 2011/12 seasons, amassing a record points total of 2,216 during the latter campaign. Having scaled the heights of the global rankings and claimed two further Tour de Ski wins, he was named Swiss Athlete of the Year in 2012. The following year, on 23 February 2013 in Val Di Fiemme (ITA), the cross-country specialist bagged his first FIS Nordic World Ski Championship title in the 30km skiathlon.
Overcoming the odds
Cologna suffered another huge blow in November 2013 when he hurt his right ankle while out on his daily run. Again forced to miss the start of the World Cup season, he arrived at the Laura Cross-Country Ski & Biathlon Centre with very little competitive action under his belt. Despite this, the talented Swiss athlete summoned up a late burst of pace to collect gold in the skiathlon, ahead of Marcus Hellner (SWE) and Johnsrud Sundby (NOR). Five days later, he picked up a second gold medal in the 15km classical, leaving Johan Olsson (SWE) trailing in his wake.
New challenges await
After undergoing an ankle operation at the end of the 2013/14 season, Cologna collected a fourth overall FIS World Cup title the following year. Though injuries hampered his progress following his 30th birthday in 2016, he came back strong in the lead-up to PyeongChang 2018, winning a fourth Tour de Ski crown the month before the Games, six years after his previous triumph in the event.
A place in the record books
His country’s flag-bearer at the Opening Ceremony of PyeongChang 2018, Cologna began his third Winter Games by failing to defend his 30km skiathlon title, finishing sixth in a race in which the Norwegians swept the medals.
Back on form five days later, however, Cologna led at every split after the 6km mark in the 15km freestyle to win by a full 18 seconds from newly crowned skiathlon champion Simen Hegstad Krueger. In doing so, Cologna claimed his third straight gold in the event, a first for the discipline.
The proud owner of all four of his country’s Winter Games cross-country golds, he stands level with the gymnast Georges Miez and ski jumper Simon Ammann as Switzerland’s most decorated Olympians of all time.
More to come
Only Björn Daehlie, with six individual titles, has won more Olympic cross-country golds than Cologna. “It’s been very hard work and I really wanted to win here after Vancouver and Sochi,” said the Swiss after collecting the fourth gold of his career. “I can’t quite believe I’ve won. It feels good to have made history.”
Cologna ended the season with a World Cup win in the 50km at Oslo-Holmenkollen and maintained his form by winning the 15km at the Military World Ski Championships in Saalfelden (AUT). Yet to ponder retirement, the Swiss has his sights set on the 2019 World Championships in Seefeld (AUT) and has not ruled out a fourth Winter Games appearance at Beijing 2022, not least because, as he has said, “four years can go very quickly”.