Ole Einar Bjørndalen : biography
2008/09 World Cup season
Bjørndalen started off the season suffering from the effects of long-term illness. Although delivering mostly rather unusual results in the races before the Christmas break, he still placed second in both of the pursuit events. He skipped the Biathlon World Team Challenge in Gelsenkirchen, focusing on training instead. After the break, he returned with variable, but more stable results, including victories in both the sprint and pursuit events in Ruhpolding and a third place in the mass start in Oberhof.
Controversy at World Championships 2009
At the Biathlon World Championships 2009 in Pyeongchang, during the men’s 12.5 km pursuit, Bjørndalen with at least 15 other competitors accidentally skied the wrong way at the start of the first lap. Just after leaving the start, the athletes skied over a bridge instead of skiing besides it, which was the right way. A jury meeting decided to give all these athletes a one minute time penalty, following a complaint from the Russian team. However, another complaint by seven other member states led to the Appeal Jury reverting to the original result. And with Bjørndalen’s first ever 20 km Individual World Championship title he won 4 out of 6 possible gold medals (10 km sprint, 12.5 km pursuit, 20 km Individual and the 4×7.5 km relay).
After the World Championships Bjørndalen kept on achieving victories. With a second place in the sprint in Vancouver, he took over the world cup overall lead. He followed up with a second place, and two victories at the events in Granåsen, Trondheim (the latter being a mass start where he, for the first time in quite a while, shot clean). With the last one, he had 89 world cup victories (3 above Ingemar Stenmark), and 151 podiums. He secured his sixth overall win in the last sprint of the season, in Khanty-Mansiysk where he placed second. In the following event (a pursuit), he was beaten at the finish line by teammate Emil Hegle Svendsen, and won the pursuit cup as well.
Achievements and honours
In 1993, at the age of 19, Bjørndalen became the first biathlete ever to win a grand slam by winning all 3 possible gold medals on the Junior Biathlon World Championships. As of May 2012, Bjørndalen has won six Olympic gold medals, four Olympic silver, one Olympic bronze, eighteen World Championship gold medals, eleven silver, and nine bronze, and a record high of 93 individual Biathlon World Cup wins, the most of any biathlete to date. He has won the World Cup six times (1997/1998, 2002/2003, 2004/2005, 2005/2006, 2007/2008, and 2008/2009) finished second four times (1998/1999, 1999/2000, 2000/2001, 2003/2004), and third once (2001/2002). In his first season (1992/1993) he finished 62nd, the season after, 30th and the season after that, 4th. When winning the overall world cup in 1998, at the age of 24, he actually won all that is possible in biathlon in one season – world championships gold medal, Olympic gold medal and the overall world cup title. His World Cup podium record is 162 (more than 160 including the victory and the podiums in cross-country) podium finishes, 93 1st places, 45 2nd places, and 22 3rd places. He is the only biathlete ever to win all four biathlon events in a single Winter Olympics (2002 Salt Lake City Games). This encompasses the sprint, pursuit, individual, and relay events, the latter together with three other participants (The first mass start only began in the 2006 Winter Olympics). Bjørndalen’s 93 Biathlon World Cup victories and 1 cross-country victory is 4 behind of Gunda Niemann-Stirnemann’s record of 98 World Cup victories for a winter sport athlete.
Bjørndalen occasionally competes in cross-country races, and has raced in World Championships before. During the off season in April, the Norwegian Skarverennet takes place, a 38 km race in the mountains between Finse and Ustaoset. Bjørndalen has competed in this competition, in 2006 he won the race in a time of 1:31.25, one second ahead of Frode Andresen, and seven seconds ahead of third place Kristen Skjeldal. In 2007 he won the race again and in 2008 he finished on second place. For his accomplishments in biathlon and cross-country skiing, Bjørndalen received the Egebergs Ærespris in 2002. In 2008, a nearly three meters tall bronze statue of Bjørndalen, created by a sculptor Kirsten Kokkin, was erected in his hometown of Simostranda, Norway. In March 2011, he, Michael Greis and Andrea Henkel were awarded the Holmenkollen Medal, as the first biathletes to receive the medal.