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But it wasn’t quite that straightforward. Bredesen had made his Olympic debut two years earlier in Albertville, and it’s hard to sum up just how badly things had gone for him. Having been Norwegian champion on both the large and normal hills the previous year, Bredesen had decided to radically change his technique, moving from the classical style to the new V-style, but he had yet to master this new form.
At the 1992 Games, he came last on the normal hill and 57th out of 59 on the large hill. Having left Norway with hopes of challenging for a medal, be came back with a cruel new nickname, Espen the Eagle, a mocking reference to the famously unsuccessful British ski jumper, Eddie “the Eagle” Edwards.
In adversity, though, Bredesen stuck to his self-belief, returned to training and perfected his new style. In 1993, he won the World Championship title on the large hill and won three times in the World Cup. His good form continued into 1994 and he arrived in Lillehammer in confident mood, even if some of the sport’s fans still remembered him as much for his failure in Albertville than for his string of subsequent successes.
His first event was the large hill, where Bredesen soared 135.5m in the first round. He led at the halfway point but was upstaged by a magnificent leap from Germany’s Jens Weissflog, which was good enough for gold. Bredesen, though, took silver – a notable improvement on two years earlier.
Five days later he was on the normal hill, and once again the battle for gold was a race between two men – Bredesen pitted against his fellow countryman, Lasse Ottesen. Bredesen once again led at halfway, after a technically outstanding jump, but his second round display was just as emphatic, and he took the victory with an impressive margin of 14 points.