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18 Mar 2015
IOC News

Fred Anton Maier: Living the dream

Speed skater Fred Anton Maier won four medals in two editions of the Olympic Games. In the latest interview in our Words of Olympians series, the Norwegian explains how his first podium position in 1964 in Innsbruck inspired him to aim even higher.

Born on the island of Nøtterøy in the south-east of Norway on 15 December 1938, Fred Anton Maier would go on to become one of the most famous farmers ever. When not running his farm, he excelled as a long-distance speed skater. Maier made his Olympic debut on 5 February 1964, in the 5,000m at the Winter Games in Innsbruck (AUT) and enjoyed instant success.

He finished third to earn himself a spot on the podium alongside compatriots Knut Johannesen, whose gold-medal winning time of 7 minutes 38.4 seconds was a new Olympic record, and Per Ivar Moe. “It was really special because all of us on the podium were from Norway” he recalls with a smile. “Gold for a Norwegian, silver for a Norwegian and bronze for me. To be there on the podium and to see the flags of my country go up, that gave me real motivation to continue! I told myself then that I had to move up the rungs. And that’s what I did!”

Only two days later Maier took silver in the 10,000m behind Sweden’s Jonny Nilsson. He would go on to rise to the top of his sport, breaking 11 world records in the 3,000m, 5,000m and 10,000m and enjoying a year of incredible success in 1968.when he won the world title in all of the distances, as well as finishing as Norwegian national champion, European champion… and Olympic champion!

On 15 February 1968 in Grenoble (FRA), Maier and his rivals engaged in a titanic battle in the 5,000m. Placed in the third pair, Dutchman Kees Verkerk broke Maier’s world record with a time of 7 minutes 23.2 seconds. However, Maier, racing in the fifth pair, reclaimed his record after a powerful burst of speed which was also enough to win him gold. Just 48 hours later, he went into the 10,000m as firm favourite, but this time had to settle for silver, after he was beaten to the line by Swedish Johnny Höglin.

Maier also excelled at cycling and appeared on national podiums in the time trial. In 1967, he was awarded the prestigious “Egebergs Ærespris” prize, which is presented to Norwegian athletes who excel in more than one sport. A year later, he won the Oscar Mathisen prize, awarded to the best international skater and was also named Norwegian sportsperson of the year!

The Olympic Games were always Maier’s number one priority, and as he explains, they had an enduring and unique appeal. “I think that the Games are a dream and goal for all young athletes. They always were for me. Competing in the Games is really something special, as they only take place every four years. It was only at the Games that I could really excel in long distances and sprints.”

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