Retirement for ”King of Biathlon” Ole Einar Björndalen
Norway’s Ole Einar Björndalen announced his retirement from biathlon this morning at an emotional press conference in his hometown of Simostranda. The man known as the “King of Biathlon” after admitting that he had suffered with tachycardia this past season at times, commented tearfully, “My motivation is unstoppable. I have the pleasure and motivation to hold on to sports that are just amazing. I would like to take a few more years, but this is the last season.”
Three Heart Episodes; "Under Control"
Björndalen admitted to three episodes of the heart issue. “It is not dangerous, but it is a discomfort. I always got it in a state of rest, never under stress, so I was never sure if I should compete or work hard… We got it under control… I responded well and received very good help from my health team, but I was constantly a concern.”
Thanks; Family Holiday after 25 Years
In his remarks, he thanked his family and all of the people who have supported him over the course of his 25-year career. “The family has meant a lot. They have been my anchor. This Easter we had gathered the whole family at Beitostølen. It's been 25 years since the last time. I have not celebrated Easter or Christmas together. That's how hard the top level is. I would also like to thank the Norwegian people. I have had a fantastic support system, had many amazing coaches, and technical staff who have done a crazy job.”
Secure Legacy: The Best Ever
Björndalen leaves the sport with his legacy secure as the best ever. The list of accomplishments, unprecedented in the sport include 13 Olympic Winter Games medals including eight Gold medals, 45 IBU World Championships medals of which 20 are Gold medals and one World Championship Gold medal in cross-country skiing. His six victories in the World Cup Total Score that secured the big Crystal Globe was just this season topped by France’s Martin Fourcade.
Most Memorable at Nagano
Looking back, the veteran Norwegian admitted his most memorable day in the sport occurred at the 1998 Olympic Winter Games in Nagano. “What I remember most is probably the Olympics in Nagano. It's the roughest experience I've had, because the race was canceled one day when I was winning and then I got the opportunity to go again the next day and win. It's my biggest experience.”
Final Podium at IBU WCH in Hochfilzen
Until this season when his best result of the year came just a few weeks ago (12th in the Kontiolahti sprint), the 44-year-old has been a force on the World Cup and the OWG circuit virtually every season since his debut in 1993. His final podium was a Bronze medal in the pursuit at the 2017 IBU World Championships in Hochfilzen. Ironically, he shared that podium with the newest Norwegian biathlon star Johannes Thingnes Boe and Fourcade who is chasing Björndalen's records.
Salt Lake Sweep
Besides Nagano, three other moments stand out among the many in his brilliant career. The four Gold medal sweep at the 2002 Salt Lake OWG is by far one of the most dominating performances in the history of biathlon. He won all of the biathlon competitions: 20K individual, sprint, pursuit and was on the winning men’s relay team.
At the 2014 Sochi OWG he won Sprint and Mixed Relay Gold medals at age 40 after mixed results all season prior to that. He admitted foresightedly several weeks before that sprint win that if he could win just one Gold medal, his choice would be in the sprint.
Four Medals at Oslo 2016
Then at the 2016 IBU World Championships in Oslo, he won sprint and pursuit Silver medals, mass start Bronze and a Gold medal in the mixed relay in another performance where he was much better than anyone ever expected. After winning the pursuit title in Oslo, Fourcade gave his rival the greatest compliment. “You have to realize that if I was not in the competition; Ole would have two Gold medals at age 42; amazing.”
Tribute from Martin Fourcade
Martin Fourcade offered his tribute to Björndalen this afternoon. “It was a big surprise to day to hear about his retirement. As a kid, I kept his poster in my room for years. As a young athlete, I realized how big the gap was between my level and the best man in the world when he passed me for the first time in the Hochfilzen World Cup in 2008. I can definitely say that he was and is my idol; I received a lot of inspiration from him. Today, each time I break a record, I am really proud of it because I know who the record belongs to. It has been a huge honor to compete against this guy, this biathlete. I wish him the best of luck for the future. I will be glad to see him many times not far from biathlon.”
Press Conference: Ole Einar Bjoerndalen's retirement (Part 1)— IBU World Cup (@IBU_WC) April 3, 2018
"The summer started really good. April, May, June and partly July was amazing and the training went well" - but afterwards Ole Einar Bjoerndalen faced some health struggles in the lead up to the 2017/2018 season. pic.twitter.com/JhHpLNsIF0
Congratulations to Ole Einar on a brilliant and enduring career…Best wishes and good luck in all of your future endeavors from the Biathlon Family and fans worldwide!