Ole Einar Bjørndalen (NOR) won four medals during the 2016 IBU World Championships on home turf in Oslo. Photo: Nordic Focus
The 2016 IBU World Championships was a Madshus podium party. Let us count the ways:
On the first day of the competition, Thursday March 3, Anaïs Bescond helped France to gold in the mixed relay, while Marte Olsbu helped Norway to silver.
Next up: the sprint on Saturday, March 5. On his first appearance at the 2016 IBU World Championships, Ole Einar Bjørndalen earned himself a medal: Silver. On home turf in Holmenkollen (NOR). These championships have been his main focus for the entire season, not to mention his entire career, which to date counts 24 World Cup seasons. And in his first race he delivers. Right on schedule.
On Sunday, March 6, Bjørndalen helped himself to another silver medal, this time in the men’s 12.5km pursuit.
“That was fun. I had to at least match my age in medals before I consider myself done, but this was the most I could squeeze out of myself today,” the 42-year-old said to Norwegian broadcaster NRK after the race.
In the women’s 15km normal program on Tuesday, March 8, Bescond was back on the podium for another silver medal.
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Anais Bescond (FRA) earned three medals in Holmenkollen: gold in the mixed relay, silver in the 15km normal competition and silver in the womens relay. Photo: Nordic Focus
The women’s relay on Friday, March 11, was another big day for Madshus racers. Olsbu was given the heavy responsibility of anchoring Norway’s team. She returned the honor with gold. In front of a home crowd in Holmenkollen, globally known to be some of the loudest fans around. It was a surreal experience, Olsbu said.
The 25-year-old debuted at the 2015 World Championships in Kontiolahti (FIN) and earned her two first World Championship medals in Holmenkollen.
“This is the biggest I have ever experienced. I can’t believe it’s true,” Olsbu said after the relay, adding that she didn’t dare to look back.
“I was so scared that they would catch me. I skied for my life,” she told reporters.
But pain is soon forgotten. The rewards are so sweet.
“Today we showed that we are good enough to win gold. And we won the World Championships on home turf,” said Olsbu.
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Marte Olsbu anchored Norway to gold in the relay. Photo: Nordic Focus
The men’s relay on Saturday, March 12, was no let down either. Norway was golden again, with the same team that won the World Championships in Kontiolahti (FIN) last year. Accordingly, as defending champions the boys had a lot to fight for. And they did, but the victory was hardly handed to them on a plate. Winning the gold is one thing. But to deliver in front of a home crowd is something else entirely. For Emil Hegle Svendsen, who anchored the team to gold, the suspense leading up to hos own leg was brutal.
“The nervousness I have experienced prior to this race doesn’t compare to anything I’ve ever felt before. It was so intense,” said Svendsen, who needed the golden boost after a season that has been all over the map.
To deliver for the rest of his team and a whole nation at the World Championships on home turf is something few athletes ever have a chance to experience.
“It was so incredibly amazing to win. My whole life passed in review right there and then,” Svendsen said after his race.
The relay victory marked Svendsen’s 12th World Championship gold medal. For Bjørndalen, it was the 20th.
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Emil Hegle Svendesn was cool as a cucumber on the surface, but said the relay was the most nerve-wrecking experience in his career. Photo: Nordic Focus
Then the final day of the championships, Sunday March 13, featured the grand event of biathlon: the mass start. The head-to-head battles. The pedal to the metal. No games. Bjørndalen secures the bronze, his fourth medal in the 2016 championship.
“It was fantastic to get the bronze. I was a bit tired today, but I secured it at the range and I conserved my energy in the track because I knew it was going to be a rat race to the finish. Maybe I could have gone after it a little harder, but that would also have run the risk of really getting the hammer. I am incredibly content now. It has been a really fantastic championship, beyond all expectations,” Bjørndalen said after the mass start, which concluded the 2016 IBU World Championships in Oslo.
The 2016 IBU World Championships are history. The glory goes on. The 2017 IBU World Championships will take place in Rupholding, Germany.
Emil Hegle Svendsen on his final lap to the finish line. Photo: Nordic Focus