Evensen flies the flag for Norway
Norwegian speed skater Bernt Evensen had a record to set straight when he lined up in the 500m at St Moritz 1928. Four years earlier in Chamonix, Norway’s finest had to content themselves with the minor medals after seeing the USA’s Charles Jewtraw win gold in 500m, Finland’s Clas Thunberg do likewise in the 1,500m, 5,000m and all-round events and fellow Finn Julius Skutnabb take the 10,000m title.
Though a world allround champion in 1927, Evensen was not regarded as one of the favourites for gold in the sprint event, given that the field contained Thunberg, who had just taken his world allround title from him in Davos a few days earlier, and compatriot Roald Larsen, who set a new world record of 43.1 in the event at those same world championships.
Thunberg and Larsen were drawn together in the second pairing, with the Finn breaking clear in the final metres to set a new Olympic record of 43.4. Skating against his compatriot Oskar Olsen, Evensen then equalled Thunberg’s time to earn a share of the Olympic title, while Larsen, the USA’s John O’Neil Farrell and Finland’s Jaakko Friman all clocked 43.6 to finish equal third.
That afternoon Evensen took part in the 5,000m, skating into an early lead against fellow Norwegian Ivar Ballangrud before losing momentum in the final 1,600m. Finishing 10 seconds adrift of gold medallist Ballangrud, he had to be content with bronze behind Skutnabb.
Evensen was back in action the very next day, paired with Thunberg in the 1,500m. The joint 500m champions waged another superb battle, with nothing between them in the final metres of what turned out to be the day’s fastest race. The Finn’s superior sprinting skills saw him over the line first, however, in 2:21.1, some eight tenths faster than Evensen, who claimed the silver, 1.05 seconds ahead of Ballangrud.
Evensen was prevented by the elements from winning a possible fourth medal in the 10,000m, which had to be cancelled when rising temperatures caused the ice to melt and huge puddles of water to form on the course.The Norwegian remained at the peak of his powers in the years that followed, winning a number of world and European championship medals and picking up a silver in the 500m at Lake Placid 1932 and another allround world title in Helsinki two years later. As a talented cyclist, he won 11 Norwegian championships and in 1928 won the prestigious Egebergs Ærespris award, which is presented to outstanding Norwegian athletes who excel in more than one sport.