Norway’s medal drought and anguish over sticky skis turned into a torrent of cheers and celebratory cake at the Winter Olympics in Sochi on Tuesday. First Emil Hegle Svendsen won gold in a major if delayed biathlon event, and then Norwegians won both gold and silver medals in the sport that combines ski jumping with cross-country skiing, for the first time in many years.
For Svendsen and his older brother Morten, it was also a moment of pure vindication. Morten Hegle Svendsen is in charge of preparing and waxing skis for the Norwegian biathlon team, which hasn’t performed well during the past few days of spring skiing conditions in the mountains of Sochi. He and others in the waxing crews have endured intense questioning and criticism from both coaches, athletes and journalists. Now they could just enjoy the thrill of victory again, reported Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).
“We did it,” Morten Hegle Svendsen told his brother when they finally met for a long hug after the 15-kilometer men’s mass start race.
“Congratulations,” responded Emil, who earlier had cried for joy at the finish line.
“Same to you,” said Morten.
Emil told reporters earlier that he was “giving away this victory to the waxing team. They’ve had a completely horrible time. It was good that we got it together now.”
It was, however, a harrowingly close finish, with Svendsen beating Martin Fourcade of France literally by a toe. Both men were actually clocked with the same finishing time of 42 minutes, 29.1 seconds, but Svendsen won after a judge’s review. (For details of the race, click here – external link). The two other Norwegians in the race, Johannes Thingnes Bø and Ole Einar Bjørndalen, finished 8th and 22nd respectively in the race that had been postponed from Sunday because of weather conditions.
Meanwhile, cheers broke out in another branch of the Norwegian Olympic team when Jørgen Graabak, who had never won an international competition, won gold in the 10-kilometer Nordic combined race. After jumping on the large hill, Graabak defied rainy conditions to ski the 10-kilometer course in 23 minutes, 27.5 seconds. No Norwegian had won the combined event since Bjarte Engen Vik took gold at the Winter Olympics n Nagano in 1998.
Magnus Moan was right behind Graabak to take the silver, making for a double Norwegian victory on the winners’ podium. Fabian Riessle of Germany won bronze.
The medals sent Norway back up to second place in the medals ranking, with seven gold medals and a total of 18, behind Germany with eight gold medals and 15 in total. The Netherlands was third, with six gold medals and a total of 20.