Samppa Lajunen

Sweeping the Nordic Combined

Samppa Lajunen entered his first cross-country race when he was only two years old. By the time he was five, he was skiing 300 miles a year.

He added ski jumping to his pursuits when he was only 9 years old. In 1997, Lajunen, still only 17 years old, won the overall World Cup title in Nordic combined. The following year he earned silver medals at the Nagano Olympics in both the individual and team events. A third Nordic combined event, the sprint, was added for the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics and Lajunen took full advantage of the expanded program.

In the individual event, Lajunen trailed teammate Jaako Tallus after the ski jump and gave up 53 seconds at the start of the 15km race. However he came from behind and won by 24.7 seconds. In the team event, Lajunen recorded the two best jumps of the competition and then anchored the Finnish team to victory. He earned a third gold medal in the sprint.