Bjørndalen: A master of details

When The King of biathlon, Ole Einar Bjørndalen (NOR), is embarking on his 20th World Cup season with the World Cup openers in Östersund (SWE) this week, he leaves nothing untested. (Story continues below the photo)

Ole Einar Bjørndalen at the World Cup in Holmenkollen, Norway, March 20, 2011. Photo: Nordic Focus

They say that behind every great man is a great woman. Behind Bjørndalen, there is a great woman and a support crew of roughly 70 people, according to the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten.

The crew is carefully collected throughout his life and career.

“I have no preconceived attitudes or limitations on the individuals I work with. We are a team because I believe they are the best,” Bjørndalen says to Aftenposten.

A part of the development
Bjørndalen is fiercely loyal to the Norwegian national team, but he is also not afraid to create his own strategies. He has the curiousity of a child. While some racers are content to have the manufacturers hand them a pair of skis, Bjørndalen wants to be a part of the design and engineering process. He works side by side with the product developers and engineers, a team of 12 people.

“I like to be involved in the things I am good at. There are several people who want my feedback, and I am happy to work with them. I am incredibly anal on some things, and quite ignorant on others,” Bjørndalen explains, noting that his skis, boots, poles and equipment are items he is incredibly anal about.

Only the best gear
“I want my gear to deliver 100 percent, and there are a lot of aspects that determine that,” he says.

Where others prefer skis that work well, comfortable boots and gloves that match their glasses, Bjørndalen has different requirements: Efficiency and technical solutions that shave time off his laps or save time at the range.

“The gear I like would probably not sell in the mainstream markets. Comfort is a factor that ranks pretty low with me. I am focused on equipment that get me from A to B as fast as possible,” Bjørndalen says.

When the World Cup gets underway in Östersund, Bjørndalen will be racing in brand new ski boots.

“We have put a lot of effort into boots lately, and we are very close now. Madshus is also working on a new model of skis that perform exceptionally well on soft, wet snow. This is an area where the development has been stalled for a while now. These skis will take that segment to a new level,” Bjørndalen says.

Putting it all to work
Last season was not a great one for Bjørndalen. He had not performed as poorly in 17 years. This summer, he suffered a back injury that threatened to end his career. Will he step back up to the top this year?

“I did miss a lot of training this summer, but I have trained very hard for 25 years, so I don’t think the injury will be that significant of a factor. I can’t feel it now. I feel confident, but nervous. That’s a good combination,” Bjørndalen concludes.

There is a large crew supporting Bjørndalen:

  • Family: 20
  • Norwegian Biathlon Association: 10 people
  • Physical coaches: 2-3 people
  • Technique coaches: 2-3 people
  • Mentors: 2 people
  • Partners: 25 people
  • Service Crew: 2-6 people
  • Development: 6 people