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One of the most pressing questions at Lake Placid surrounded Johan Grøttumsbråten, the Norwegian flag bearer. Could anyone defeat him in the Nordic combined? The competition, which consisted of cross-country skiing (held over 18km) and ski jumping, had already provided him with two out of his five Olympic medals.
At Chamonix 1924, he collected a silver in the 18km and two bronzes in the 50km and Nordic combined, while at St. Moritz 1928, he won the 18km and combined titles. In the shadow of the Adirondack mountains on 10 February 1932, Grøttumsbråten finished in the fastest time (1:27:15) to top the combined standings after the 18km, putting himself in an excellent position ahead of the ski jumping at Intervales Hill the following day.
Intriguingly, his sixth place in the 18km, which included athletes focusing solely on that distance as well as those treating it as just one part of a two-pronged competition, represented the only time that he had not won an Olympic medal in three different Games. Undeterred, he went into the ski jumping with a healthy points total of 240 already in the bag.
His rivals, especially compatriot Hans Vinjarengen (recording a 62m jump, the longest of the competition), Sweden’s Sven Ericsson (61.50m) and Switzerland’s Fritz Kaufmann (60.50m) would try their very best, but the damage had already been done in the 18km. Grøttumsbråten came up with two solid jumps of 51m and 50m, finishing sixth in the segment but winning the Nordic combined with a total of 446 points, well ahead of fellow Norwegians Ole Stenen (436.05 points) and Vinjarengen (434.60 points). It was the 32-year-old’s sixth Olympic medal and third Olympic title, and for the second Games in a row, he had spearheaded a Norwegian clean sweep.
Although Grøttumsbråten’s legend was built at the Olympic Games, it was cemented at the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships, where he added the 1926 and 1931 Nordic combined titles and the 1931 18km title to his CV, and at the celebrated Holmenkollen Ski Festival, where he managed five victories (in 1923, 1926, 1928, 1929 and 1931). He later became a member of the Norwegian resistance movement during the Second World War.