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    Athlete profile: Bjorn Daehlie

    Posted: Tue February 3, 1998 at 5:00 PM ET

    Athlete information
    NameBjorn Daehlie
    PronouncedBYORN DAY-lee
    BirthplaceElverum, Norway
    ResidenceRaaholt, Norway (ROH-holt)
    Height/Weight6'1", 168
    Events10km cl, 15km Pursuit, 30km cl, 50km free, 4x10km relay

    Athlete notes

    There is talk in Norway of naming the new Oslo airport after him...Daehlie has surpassed all previous cross-country standards en route to becoming a modern-day Viking hero...over two Olympics, Daehile has amassed eight medals in 10 events -- the two times he missed medals, he finished fourth...Daehlie has the most Olympic medals of any active Winter Olympian and could pass fellow cross-country skier Raisa Smetanina (rah-EE-sah smeh-TAH-nee-nah) of Russia (10 medals, 1976-1992) as the greatest Winter Olympic medal winner...Daehlie's persona is so huge back home that he is often compared by journalists to Michael Jordan or present-day rock stars who are mobbed at every public appearance...in similar fashion, fans often wait for hours in freezing weather to catch a glimpse of Daehlie gliding on his skis... of course it does not hurt that about one million Norwegians, or about one-fourth of the population, are avid cross-country skiers...even retired skier and countryman Vegard Ulvang (VAY-gard OOHL-vahng) admits, "Bjorn is probably the greatest cross-country skier, ever. He always expects to win"...entering the 1997-98 World Cup season, Daehlie had amassed 37 World Cup victories, far surpassing the previous record of 30 held by Gunde Svan (GOON-duh SVAHN) of Sweden...he has won a total of 15 medals at the World Championships since 1991, including three golds last year in Trondheim...with five golds and three silvers he is tied for third on the all-time list of Winter Olympic medal winners -- and that is after just two Games...in Nagano he could surpass Soviet speed-skater Lydia Skoblikova's (skoh-BLEE-koh-vah) record of six gold medals...he has other notable achievements...Daehlie has won the World Cup overall cross-country title five of the last six years and on November 29, 1995, in Gallivare, Sweden, Daehlie won the first Nordic skiing World Cup Events held under floodlights...whew, his achievements are a hand-full...but there is also a sincere and genuine person behind this competitive façade...sports journalist for the International Herald Tribune, Ian Thomsen, labeled Daehlie as the "Symbol of the Nordic Spirit," while Sports Illustrated writer Leigh Montville writes that "Daehlie has an old-time quality, a sense that he is more like the athletic heroes of the past than like those of the present and certainly the future. More normal. More tied to the world"...one of the best examples of Daehlie's character occurred at the 1993 World Championships in Falun, Sweden...after losing to Sweden's Torgny Mogren in the 50km freestyle, the Norwegian gave Mogren a piggyback as the Swede celebrated his country's only medal in front of the home crowd...following the Pursuit race, Daehlie's gesture was even more honorable...Daehlie edged Kazakhstan's Vladimir Smirnov, who lives in Sweden, by inches for the gold medal...originally the scoreboard declared Smirnov the winner, but after review and after Smirnov had conducted the winner's interview, the results were changed and Daehlie was declared the winner...in front of a packed new conference, Daehlie invited a distraught Smirnov and his family to a dinner cooked by one of Norway's most famous chefs...then in Lillehammer -- after winning the 10km classic, Daehlie passed out glasses of cherry brandy made from cherries picked by Daehlie and his father from their orchard...at a press conference at the 1997 Worlds in Trondheim, Daehlie served an 18kg salmon which he had fished himself and enlisted Norwegian master chef Arne Brimi to prepare it for the news media...Daehlie's is also invaluable to his Norwegian team..."Daehlie is definitely the leader of our team," says national head coach Erik Roste, "both during competition and in training camps. I don't think there is a soul on earth who is able to outrun Bjorn in a long uphill stunt"..."Daehlie takes all the pressure away from the Norwegian team," says Daehlie's teammate Thomas Alsgård. "It's good for us, but it is harder for Bjorn"...however, the cool-headed, yet strong-willed Daehlie does not seem to mind the pressure..."I feel as if I've given the people in this country something," says Daehlie. "I felt it in Norway, that I touched people in a special way. People who I don't know say they were crying in front of the television when I won at the Olympics. I gave something back"...how does Daehlie have such consistent success?...one sports scientist notes that Daehlie is a physiological marvel with oxygen capacity that in tests has only been rivaled by Spain's legendary cyclist Miguel Indurain...others point to the skier's killer instinct..."He never backs down," says one expert. "When you see Daehlie fling his body across the finish line and collapse in a heap, that isn't theatrics. It is the only way he knows how to race"...he is also a master at setting up his training routine..."It's a little bit difficult for someone like Daehlie to always stay motivated," says Roste. "But each season he has the same training routine and you have to build up as the season goes along"...he trains long and hard in the fall -- 30 or more hours a week is not unusual -- and knows just how long and hard to push his body in practice...teammate Alsgård even moved to Daehlie's town of Nannestad to train with the superstar and learn his training techniques...last year, for example, Daehlie peaked exactly at the right time in February...he had no problems "getting up" for the World Championships, where he placed in the top three in all four individual events..."It was like Lillehammer all over again," says the 30-year-old Daehlie. "For me, it's very special to compete in Norway. Cross-country skiing means a lot to Norwegians. They cheer not only for me, they cheer for every racer"...but with all his seriousness and success, Daehlie also has a humorous side to him...to the delight of the crowd, he once crossed the finish line backwards, as his relay team won in convincing fashion...another time he mimicked a war dance...he is most famous for the kisses he blows to the Norwegian crowd on both sides of the finish line..."All of Norway did a great job, both the team and the fans" he said. "I was showing that. I didn't want to go backwards, but do something spontaneous. But if I ever thought that it would cost us a gold medal, I would never do it"...one finish that Daehlie would like to have back is at the 1994 Olympic relay...racing in the anchor leg, Daehlie was beaten out by four tenths of a second by an inspired Silvio Fauner of Italy..."My tactics were to say with Daehlie to the very end," said Fauner...the race is one of the few major disappointments in Daehlie's career and he no doubt wants to earn revenge at the same Events in Nagano...in his free time, Bjorn enjoys fishing and hunting...he is also known to take some beach and ocean vacations immediately following the World Cup season, but he still prefers the wilderness...when hunting, his most welcomed catch is the wood grouse, and 11-pound black bird that is rearely spotted in Norway...after catching his birds, Daehlie often turn gourmet, preparing them himself...he hands the birds for several days, then freezes them...after taking them out of the refrigerator, he shaves off the skin..."I usually make a sauce," Daehlie says. "That is the key to the meal. I take a little red wine, some Norwegian cheese, some cream and some berries to use as a spice. I cook the bird and then slice small pieces into the sauce. It is very good"...while many ski-jumpers start out as cross-country skier, Daehlie is one fof the few who skiers who switched to skiing after concentrating on jumping..."My mother was a jumping coach, and my style was terrible," Daehlie recalls. "But mother though it was good"...his parents are both schoolteachers and his older sister finished law school..."My dad says that I have it just in my legs," says Bjorn...a secondary-school teacher noticed Bjorn was perennially the fastest kid in class and advised him to turn to cross-country skiing...Daehlie first dabbled in nordic combined before settling on skiing at age 15...Daehlie, who is married with two young children, speaks both English and German...

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