Emil Hegle Svendsen showed all of his skill
Biathlon is a gruelling sport, often rewarding the stamina and endurance that come with experience. Norway’s Emil Hegle Svendsen first laid down a marker at the unusually young age of 20, with a sixth place finish in the mass start at Turin 2006. Now, with more experience and a number of World Cup wins under his belt, he returned to the Olympic arena as a strong contender for multiple medals.
He did not disappoint, starting with silver in the 10km on the opening day of the biathlon programme, finishing behind surprise winner Vincent Jay of France. In tough conditions, many of the favourites fell away but Svendsen showed all of his skill, speed and determination, overcoming the handicap of an early start.
There was better to come. Svendsen missed out on the podium in both the 12.5km pursuit and the 15km mass start, but then produced a wonderful performance in the individual 20km. Missing just one target and turning in a superlative skiing display,
Svendsen swept into the lead, never to relinquish it. The only serious challenge came from Sergey Novikov of Belarus, who went clear on the shooting range but couldn’t match the Norwegian’s pace on the skis and finished nearly 10 seconds behind.
That left the relay, where Norway’s team also included the legendary Ole Einar Bjørndalen, chasing an eleventh Olympic medal. Russia led after the first leg, but there was little to choose between the pack. After Norway, Sweden and Austria broke clear on the second leg, Svendsen skied a strong third, teeing up anchorman Bjørndalen to seal victory.
Svendsen kicked on after Vancouver, claiming a succession of world championship and World Cup victories, with titles in every one of the biathlon categories.