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01 Feb 1948
St. Moritz 1948 , Nordic Combined , Finland , IOC News

Hasu upsets the odds in Nordic combined

The Nordic combined was an event where one nation was expected to dominate, and that nation was Norway. A Norwegian athlete had always won gold in previous Games. In fact, Norwegian athletes had won every medal in the four Games where Nordic combined had been included. Rarely has any nation held such a stranglehold on any sport.

But it couldn't last for ever. Eventually the sport was bound to throw up a challenger from another country, and it happened in St Moritz.

Heikki Hasu was a month short of his 22nd birthday when he arrived at these Games. The Finn was versatile, having competed in both Nordic combined and cross-country competitions, but this was to be his international debut.

The Norwegians might have had an inkling that their dominance was ending. The previous year, the Swede Sven Israelsson had won the Nordic combined world title, with another Finn second and a Swede third. Norway’s stranglehold had been broken.

The 18km element of the Nordic combined was blended in with the 18km cross-country, so Haku found himself chasing two medals at once. But cross-country was also a story of battling against long-standing dominance. This time it was two big questions – who would win the gold medal, and could anyone beat the Swedes?

Sweden had sent four athletes to the Games and many expected them to fill the first four positions after the event. They had developed new training methods to improve their strength and stamina, and they had perfected a new “diagonal” style.

It worked very well. Martin Lundström won with ease and Nils Östensson, in second, finished nearly two minutes ahead of the next Swede.

But then, in fourth place, came Hasu. He had not won a medal this time around, but he did achieve something notable. By beating the Swede Nils Karlsson to fourth place, he became the only non-Swede to actually finish ahead of a Swedish skier in the competition, proof to the world that the Swedes were beatable.

It put him comfortably in the lead of the Nordic combined, though, and a safe jump the following day guaranteed him the gold medal. Fellow Finn Martti Huhtala took silver while Sweden's Israelsson produced the biggest jump of all to take bronze.

As for the Norwegians, for so long the masters of this event – their best finisher was Ellert Dahl in sixth. The era of total dominance had come to an end.

Hasu won gold again in Oslo four years later as part of Finland's 4x10km relay team. He later became a farmer and was twice elected to the Finnish parliament.

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