Who is Ole Einar Bjorndalen?
Ole Einar Bjorndalen is biathlon’s “King.” His Olympic career spans nearly a quarter century, in which he has won more medals than any other in the history of the Olympic Winter Games.
Bjorndalen’s childhood was a modest one. He was the fourth of five siblings raised on a farm roughly 50 miles from Norway’s capital of Oslo. He started cross-country skiing at a young age and later joined his brother Dag in biathlon competitions.
If tabulating large numbers is not your strong suit, you may want to keep your smartphone calculator open for this. Simply put, Ole Einar Bjorndalen's coffers are quite full from an international career which began on the World Cup in 1993. He has won World Cup gold 95 times, most often in sprint events, while claiming silver 53 times and bronze in 31 additional events.
Six times Bjorndalen has won the big Crystal Globe by accumuling the most points in a season to top the World Cup Total Score leaderboard. He has also won 17 small Crystal Globes, handed out to point leaders in each of the four biathlon disciplines. In descending order, Bjorndalen has won the miniature variety in the sprint seven times, five times in the mass start, four times in the pursuit and once in the individual.
Wait right there, we still have to discuss his medal haul after competing at 21 IBU World Championship events. At Worlds, Bjorndalen has won 19 gold medals, 14 silver and 11 bronze. Four of those gold medals were won in 2009 when the biathlon's world championship event was held in PyeongChang, South Korea, at the same Alpensia Biathlon Center which will serve as the home for the dual-sport event in 2018.
And just because he could, Bjorndalen also competed in the men’s 30km mass start in cross-country skiing at the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics, and he finished 5th, just 13.5 seconds off the winner.
Eight Olympic gold medals, four silver and one bronze make 13 – the record for most medals won by an athlete at the Olympic Winter Games. Bjorndalen set the record by surpassing his Norwegian hero and 12-time Olympic cross-country skiing medalist Bjorn Daehlie. The two are tied at eight for most gold medals won at the Olympic Winter Games.
Bjorndalen’s gold medal take is scattered across four separate Olympic Winter Games. Three golds were won in the sprint (1998, 2002, 2014), two in the relay (2002, 2010), one in the individual (2002), one in the pursuit (2002) and one in the mixed relay (2014).
Only in Lillehammer in 1994 and Torino in 2006 – where Bjorndalen is said to have struggled with the flu – has he not won a gold medal at an Olympic Games.
As a person outside of competition, Bjorndalen is known to his fellow biathletes to have a modest demeanor. Something which makes him all the more endearing to his legion of fans in Norway. But on the course, and especially with regard to his training – which he often does away from his Norwegian teammates – he has been known to keep to himself.
With a celebrity status across Europe that would rival LeBron James in the U.S., Bjorndalen dropped some big news in 2016 when he and Belarusian biathlete Darya Domracheva (a three-time Olympic gold medalist in her own right) announced they were expecting their first child. On her website Domracheva called the pregnancy “planned and very desired,” and the two biathletes were married at a small, private ceremony in July. On October 1, they informed the world that their baby girl had arrived, whom they named Xenia.