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06 Sep 1972
Munich 1972

Knudsen speeds from the shadows to win 4,000m gold


When you're expected to win, nerves can affect you profoundly. But if you're an outsider – if you yourself don't even really believe that you're going to win – the nerves aren't such a hindrance. And so it was for Knut Knudsen.

Knudsen was a true outsider. A 21-year-old welder from Levanger, he had been a Junior and then National champion back home in Norway, but few people saw those as indications that he would go on to beat the World. Knudsen himself said he hadn't been nervous because he thought he had such a tiny chance of success in the 4000m Individual Pursuit.

What's more, he didn't even own his own wheels – he was using a set lent to him by the Danish team, even though Knudsen was Norwegian. Almost everything about him gave the impression of an athlete who would finish in the middle of the field – expect the speed he exhibited on the Munich track.

He took the lead over Switzerland's Xavier Kurmann after four of the 14 laps and pulled away to establish a comfortable advantage. In the end, Knudsen won with a margin of more than six seconds, and secured Gold with an ease that surprised everyone – notably himself.

A year after the Games, he won the same 4000m event at the World Championships, and then became a professional cyclist. He competed professionally in Italy for the next eight years, and ended his career with victories in 49 professional races and six stage wins on the Giro d'Italia.

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