Ulvang leads Norway’s cross-country charge
Norway totally dominated the men’s cross-country skiing events in Albertville, completing a clean sweep of the gold medals. Leading the charge was Vegard Ulvang. He came from a remote mining town and had a taste for adventure, enjoying marathon skiing trips and mountain climbing.
Four years earlier, he had competed in the Calgary Games, taking a bronze medal in the 30km and coming fourth in the 50km. Ulvang knew he had the potential to do even better. More experienced, and skiing faster than ever before, he was entered into five different events in Albertville. In the 50km, he only managed to finish ninth, but in the other four events he was to make a huge mark.
He went into his first event – the 30km – carrying a great burden of hope. No Norwegian male athlete had won a cross-country gold for 16 years, but the entire nation fully expected that barren run to come to an end in Albertville. And they were right.
Norwegian skiers ended up taking all three places on the podium, earning the first cross-country clean sweep since 1948. Ulvang claimed his first gold medal, finishing comfortably clear of rising star Bjørn Dæhlie.
Ulvang's second victory came in the 10km race a few days later, but this time the greatest challenge came not from a team-mate, but from the conditions. Heavy snow had rendered the course treacherously difficult and Ulvang even fell halfway through, breaking a ski pole. Despite the fact that his replacement pole was slightly too short, he regained his composure and moved up the field from fourth to first.
A silver medal followed in the 10/15km pursuit, another race that took place in testing conditions, and then Ulvang rounded off his Games with a stellar performance in the 4x10km relay. He skied the second leg for Norway, and took over with Sweden holding the lead. Ulvang overhauled his Scandinavian rival and handed over to the anchor with Norway well out in front, setting them on a certain path for gold.