Ski legend plans ‘careful’ comeback

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Bjørn Dæhlie had won more Olympic medals than anyone else when he retired 11 years ago after a decade as Norway’s best cross-country skier ever. Now he seems to have clearly missed the sport, after accepting a spot on a professional ski team.

Bjørn Dæhlie with some of his medals. PHOTO: beijing2008.cn

Dæhlie, now age 44, is joining Team Xtra personnel, billed as Norway’s first fully professional cross-country team. It was founded in 2007 by brothers Anders and Jørgen Aukland, known for winning numerous long-distance races like the gruelling 90-kilometer Vasaloppet in Sweden.

The team now numbers eight active skiers including Nils Marius Otterstad, Jens Arne Svartedal and Jerry Ahrlin. They aim to be “one of the best long-distance teams in international Nordic skiing,” and claim they will work hard to promote and expand the sport.

Dæhlie, who has become a highly successful real estate developer and clothing manufacturer since leaving the sport, recently launched a cooperation deal with the team through his sportswear company and “along with that we also got the legend himself,” said Otterstad. He will train with the team and share his “competence and winner’s instinct.”

Dæhlie made his skiing debut in 1989 and scored his first major victories at the World Championships in Val di Fiemme in 1991. He went on to win a pile of gold medals in various Olympics and World Championships until a bad back and an accident on rollerskis forced him to retire in 2001.

It’s unlikely he’ll make a full comeback on the competitive circuit, after finishing number 90 in last winter’s Marcialonga race in Italy. He’s been working out, though, and still seems to love competition.

“I’ll be the sportswear supplier for the team, that’s one thing,” Dæhlie told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “And I want to be part of the team and contribute a bit, too. And I’ll offer some advice.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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