Björn Daehlie

The Most Successful Winter Athlete

Cross-country skier Björn Daehlie holds several all-time Winter Olympics records. Competing in the 1990s, he is still the only winter athlete to win eight gold medals, the only one to win twelve total medals and the only one to earn nine medals in individual events. He is also the only man to win six gold medals in individual events.

The first of Daehlie's fifteen Olympic races was the 1992 30km classical, in which he earned the silver medal behind fellow Norwegian Vegard Ulvang. After placing fourth in the 10km classical, Dæhlie came from behind in the second half of the combined pursuit to win his first gold medal. He added a second gold in the relay, skiing the anchor leg and celebrating by crossing the finish line backwards. He closed out the Albertville Games by winning the 50km classical by 57.6 seconds. Two years later, at the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics, Daehlie repeated his second-place finish in the 30km, but this time he earned the gold medal in the 10km. At the post-race press conference, he celebrated his victory by sharing with reporters cherry brandy made from cherries he and his father had picked. Daehlie added another gold medal in the pursuit. Racing the anchor leg again in the relay, he was edged at the finish line by Silvio Fauner of Italy. He closed out the 1994 Games with a fourth place in the 50km race. Dæhlie got off to a bad start at his final Olympics, the 1998 Nagano Games.

After choosing the wrong skis and wax for the 30km, he was only able to place 20th. However, he rebounded by winning the 10km race and then taking a silver in the pursuit. Daehlie picked up another gold medal by skiing the third leg of the 4x10km relay. Dæhlie' final Olympic race - and his final victory - was in the 50km, in what he would later describe as the hardest race of his life. After skiing for more than two hours, he crossed the finish line 8.1 seconds faster than Sweden's Niklas Jonsson. Daehlie collapsed and was unable to stand up again for five minutes.