Larsen delivers medal bonanza for Norway
Boasting six medals from two Olympic Games, Norwegian Roald Larsen is one of just five male speed skaters to have achieved such a feat. He also shares, with Rintje Ritsma, (NED) the distinction of appearing on six podiums without ever winning a gold medal. In Larsen’s case, the reason for this was the relentlessly impressive form of Finland’s Clas Thunberg, who, like Larson, secured five top-three finishes at Chamonix 1924.
In the opening event, the 500m, held on 26 January and dominated by US skater Charles Jewtraw, Larsen and Thunberg registered exactly the same time (44.80) and were both awarded a bronze medal. The 1,500m saw the Norwegian and the Finn lock horns again as, drawn together in the fourth pair, they produced a phenomenal and thrilling battle that developed at such a speed that they automatically slotted into the gold and silver medal-winning berths. Thunberg emerged triumphant in 2:20.80, Larsen clocked in at 2:22.00, while Sigurd Moen (2:25.60) finished well back in third.
The 5,000m followed a familiar narrative, Thunberg overcoming the challenge of fellow Finn Julius Skutnabb, while Larsen spearheaded a trio of Norwegians securing third, fourth and fifth place. Finally, in the 10,000m, Skutnabb got the better of Thunberg; Larsen was third once more, ahead of a veritable Norwegian brigade of Frithjof Paulsen, Harald Strøm and Moen.
Larsen would get his hands on one final medal in Chamonix, a silver in a unique all-round competition, which amalgamated the results of the four previous speed skating races. Unsurprisingly, Thunberg was awarded the gold medal, with Skutnabb taking bronze.
Larsen did not have long to wait to gain revenge on his Finnish rivals, clinching the all-round ISU World Speed Skating Championship title in Helsinki, just one month after the Chamonix Games, and adding the European all-round crown in Oslo. Four years down the line, on 4 February 1928, he completed a 500m in 43.10 to set a new world record in Davos, and collected his sixth Olympic medal – a bronze in the 500m, won by Thunberg – at the St. Moritz Games a few days later.
A six-time Olympic medallist, four-time world championship medallist and five-time European championship medallist, Larsen retired at the end of the 1920s, before founding a glazing company in Oslo in 1937, which still exists to this day.