Dӕhlie sets new Winter gold standard
Norway’s Bjørn Dӕhlie was already an established star on the international cross-country skiing circuit by the time he arrived in Nagano, with five Olympic gold medals to his name already. However, like so many great sportsmen and women, one of his strengths was an insatiable hunger for success. And the 30-year-old knew that he could set a new individual record for gold medals won at the Winter Games.Getty
His previous five golds – and two silvers – had been amassed in the space of just two previous Games. Eight medals from a total of 10 races was a quite incredible return. And in two events where he had missed out on the podium, he had finished fourth!
Once again he was entered into all five men’s cross-country events. First up for him was the 10km, in which he was the huge favourite. Sure enough, in difficult, drizzly conditions, Dӕhlie started quickly and was never headed, finishing eight seconds ahead of Austria's Markus Gandler.
He took only a silver in the pursuit – a surprise because he was considered a huge favourite to retain the title he had won in both 1992 and 1994. Instead, victory went to his countryman Thomas Alsgaard.
Dӕhlie was grateful for Alsgaard's speed a few days later, when the pair combined to help Norway beat Italy by a fraction of a second in the 4x10km relay. That was Dӕhlie's seventh gold medal, and he had just one race left, the 50km. It was not Dӕhlie's favourite event, yet it was destined to give him a grandstand finale to his Olympic career. Trailing in the early stages, he had paced his race to perfection and took the lead with 10km to go. However, Sweden's Niklas Jonsson then started a tough chase coming from 30 seconds behind to gradually reel Dӕhlie in, but he couldn’t quite catch him. The Norwegian crossed the line eight seconds ahead, and promptly collapsed.
He had won that precious eighth gold medal, setting a new record.Getty
He had one significant failing, when finishing just 20th in the 30km (a race he had never won at the Olympics), but otherwise his success was quite astonishing.
Two years later Dӕhlie retired, acclaimed as probably the finest cross-country skier the sport had ever known. His record of eight gold medals was subsequently matched by his compatriot, the biathlete Ole Einar Bjørndalen.Getty