Grøttumsbråten lays down marker in Chamonix
As he prepared to compete in Chamonix, 25-year-old Norwegian Johan Grøttumsbråten was only just beginning to scratch the surface of one of the greatest Olympic Nordic skiing careers in history. Remarkably, the Oslo-born athlete would go on to obtain a medal in every Olympic event he entered.
On 30 January 1924, Grøttumsbråten lined up in the 50km cross-country skiing competition, in which racers, departing every minute, engaged in a battle against the clock. Setting off fourth, at 8.40 in the morning, he quickly overtook the three competitors who had started before him, and was then faced with the tricky task of setting the pace for almost the entire course, which extended across Chamonix Valley and back.
The first competitor to enter the Olympic Stadium with a time of 3:47:46, he held on to the lead for just 10 minutes, when fellow Norwegian Haug completed his race in 3:44:32. A third Norwegian, Thoralf Strømstad, also bettered Grøttumsbråten’s effort, relegating him to the bronze medal position.
The 18km, held on 2 February, served as both the second cross-country skiing event of the Games and as the cross-country portion of the Nordic combined competition.
Listed 27th in the starting order, Grøttumsbråten again demonstrated his enormous potential, passing numerous rivals to finish in 1:51.00, which was enough to give him the silver medal, as the gold went once more to the imperious Haug.
In the second portion of the Nordic combined, he came up with a strong jump (44.5m on his second attempt) that surpassed that of Haug, but the lead built up by his illustrious compatriot in the 18km proved too large. Strømstad took silver, leaving Grøttumsbråten with his second bronze.
However, Chamonix was just the start for the prodigious Norwegian. Crowned Nordic combined world champion in Lahti (FIN) in 1926, he then captured two gold medals at St. Moritz 1928: in the 18km, won with a two-minute advance over Ole Hegge (NOR), and in the Nordic combined, where, courtesy of two solid jumps, the second of which reached the 56m mark, he blazed a trail for yet another Norwegian clean sweep.
Victorious in the Nordic combined at the World Championships for a second time in 1931 in Oberhof (GER), Grøttumsbråten got his hands on a third Olympic gold medal in 1932. On 11 February, at the Lake Placid Olympic Ski Jumping Complex, he defended his Nordic combined title by executing two enormous jumps of 103.20m and 102.80m, after having posted the seventh fastest time in the 18km.
Grøttumsbråten, a six-time Olympic medallist and three-time Olympic champion, also boasted five wins at the celebrated Holmenkollen Ski Festival (in 1923, 1926, 1928, 1929 and 1931). In 1924, he was awarded the Holmenkollen Medal, Norwegian skiing’s most prestigious accolade.