Cross-country skier Anders Gunde Svan’s powerhouse performance at the Sarajevo Games of 1984 earned him a haul of medals – and saw him crowned the youngest-ever Olympic champion in the event.
The 22-year-old Swede saw off the likes of established greats such as Juha Mieto of Finland and the Soviet Union’s Nikolay Zimyatov to return from Yugoslavia with two gold medals, one silver and a bronze.
Gunde Svan burst on to the scene by first winning a bronze medal in the 30km, finishing less than a second behind Zimyatov and his fellow USSR team member Alexander Zavyalov.
Three days later he exacted his revenge over Zimyatov with a stunning victory in the 15km race, winning in 41:25.6 after a neck-and-neck race battle the circuit with Aki Karvonen of Finland.
Skiing with Thomas Wassberg, Benny Kohlberg and Jan Ottosson, Gunde Svan picked up a second gold medal when Swedish pipped the USSR to the finish line in the relay.
And finally, on February 19 Svan added to his impressive collection of medals with a silver in the most challenging cross-country race of all, the 50km, where he crossed the finish line just under five seconds behind Wassberg.
At the Calgary games in 1988 he successfully defended his 50km gold medal, seeing off the challenge of Italian skier Marilio de Zolt. And days later Svan and his fellow Swedes retained their gold in the 4 x 10km relay.
But the 1984 Games was Svan’s a breakthrough, and he went on to win the World Cup five times and claimed six world championship golds. He also earned another three god medals at the Holmenkollen ski festival, collected the coveted Holmenkollen medal in 1985 and was Swedish national champion 16 times. Up until the 1990s was the most medal-bedecked cross-country skier of all time.
He put his success down to sheer determination and hard work – “Nothing is impossible” being his catchphrase – coupled with obsessive attention to detail in his training technique and selection of the lightest ski poles possible.
After retiring from the World Cup circuit in 1991, Svan switched to rally driving and achieved success, winning the Swedish championship and coming third in the European competition. He went on to build a successful TV career in his homeland.