Medals all but rained down on Norwegian athletes at the Winter Olympics on Thursday. February 15, 2018 will go down as a big day in the country’s sports history. More were streaming in on Friday, too.
Aksel Lund Svindal wasn’t the only one to set off screaming by Norwegian commentators. His gold medal in the men’s downhill, along with teammate Kjetil Jansrud’s silver got the day off to a good start, with Ragnhild Mowinckel following up with a silver in the women’s giant slalom.
Then another Ragnhild (Haga) surprised everyone by winning gold in the women’s 10-kilometer cross-country race, while favourite Marit Bjørgen took bronze. Haga’s victory was branded as “sensational,” since she’s not nearly as well-known as others on the team. The 26-year-old from Nannestad near Oslo, however, crushed all those favoured to win, including Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla, to deliver the best race of her life, 20 seconds ahead of Kalla who won silver. Nannestad, by the way, is also the hometown for Norway’s legendary cross-country skier Bjørn Dæhlie.
And then Johannes Thingnes Bø won the men’s biathlon’s 20-kilometer race. Bø’s gold medal broke the record haul set back on February 18, 1952 when Norwegians also won three gold medals and two bronze. Thursday’s silvers counted for more and the total hit six, even more than Norway’s impressive hauls at the 1994 Winter Olympics at home in Lillehammer.
By the end of the day, Norway had jumped over the Netherlands to take second place in the medals race in South Korea, behind Germany. More medals were being won on Friday as competition continued, with Jansrud winning his second medal in as many days with a bronze in the men’s Super-G. Svindal placed a relatively disappointing fifth place. “It didn’t go as well today,” Svindal told state broadcaster NRK, referring to his gold medal the day before. “It wasn’t bad, though, since Kjetil won a medal.”
Then Simen Hegstad Krüger won his second medal at the Olympics, placing second in the men’s 15-kilometer freestyle race behind Dario Cologna of Switzerland. Krüger has been another surprise winner for the Norwegians, among those ridiculed by former skiing star Petter Northug when he was chosen over Northug to ski in an early World Cup race last fall. Northug also failed to qualify for the Olympic team, while Krüger traveled to South Korea and skied to gold and then silver on Friday.
“I’d had a little dream about maybe winning one medal,” Krüger told state broadcaster NRK on Friday. “To suddenly stand here with a gold and a silver is something I can’t quite understand has actually happened.”
As of midday on Friday, Norway led the medals race with a total of 19, while Germany still topped the list with nine gold medals, compared to Norway’s six. Norway also had eight silver medals and five in bronze. Norway’s official goal for the Winter Olympics is 30 medals.