What can you write about Ole Einar Bjørndalen that hasn’t already been said? The man is a legend! He is the King of Biathlon and the best biathlete of all time. He has won about a million medals in his 100 year career (slight exaggeration but it feels like that sometimes!)
Ole Einar Bjørndalen was born in Drammen, Norway on the 27th January 1974 although he now lives in Austria. He won his first junior medal in 1992 and made his debut on the World Cup in 1993. To cut a long story short he then went on to win everything there is to win! He has a record 11 Olympics medals in biathlon, he has won the overall title six times and has more World Championship medals than he knows what to do with!
An unbelievable career which will culminate in his last ever biathlon season this year. He has announced that he will hang up his biathlon skis at the end of this season after competing in his 6th Olympic Games. He will be 40 years old by the time Sochi comes around and if he keeps his fitness up he will surely be able to add to his medals haul in the Norwegian relay team.
Strangely for an older athlete Bjørndalen has maintained his ski speed but seems to have suffered more with his shooting. Really you would expect the opposite to happen, the legs to go before the eyes. Hopefully he will maintain this for next year but unfortunately I can’t see him winning any individual races. The likes of Fourcade, Svendsen, Bø and Shipulin are just too strong for Ole to compete with now.
What I would love though is for someone to fire up the flux capacitor and get the DeLorean to take these guys back to around 2002 and see them compete against Bjørndalen at his best. What a race that would be! And you could even throw in Raphaël Poirée and Sven Fischer just to add some more spice! However until time travel is actually invented it will just have to be raced in my head, but who would win?
Well you can’t look past Bjørndalen. At his peak I think he could beat anyone past or present. After all he is a Bjørn winner!
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Biathlon is unique in the numbers of siblings who compete in the sport. You can find examples of other brothers and sisters competing in the same sport like the Williams sisters and Murray brothers in tennis, the Marquez and Espargaro brothers in Moto GP and the Ferdinand and Neville brothers in football and in cross-country skiing we have the Cologna and Northug brothers too.
However for the sheer volume of siblings competing together I don’t think any other sport can compete with biathlon. Currently we have the Fourcade brothers, the Windisch brothers, the 3 Gasparin sisters, the Bø brothers, Shipulin and Kuzmina, and even the Semerenko twins from the Ukraine to name but a few. Not forgetting top brother and sister combination Lars and Tora Berger.
Why is this? Several reasons come to mind. Firstly the family. If you grow up in family who enjoy winter sports or in an area where winter sports are popular then of course the chances of all the children taking part are greater. Secondly if you have an older sibling who is good at a sport then maybe the younger child would like to copy them or maybe it’s just easier to take all the kids to the same training lessons. Another reason is that if for example if the children are twins or very similar in physique or character it may be that they are all suited to excelling in the same sport. Whatever the reasons are biathlon seems to have benefited from the amount of siblings taking part in the sport. The Fourcades and Bergers in particular have been very successful.
But what is it like competing against your brother or sister? On the plus side you have someone you know very well who you can train and travel with. Biathletes spend a lot of time away from home and it’s nice to take your family with you. You have a great support system on hand, someone who knows when to help you or to leave you alone. There is also an increased sense of competition as everyone loves to beat their brother or sister at something so it can be a great motivator. The relays provide an opportunity to compete together and I can imagine it would be an amazing feeling to win a gold medal with a member of your family.
On the other hand you have to spend a lot of time together and depending on how good your relationship is that could be a strain. It’s also a lot easier to take out feelings of frustration on your family rather than your teammates which could cause problems both for your family and the team. There is always one sibling who will do better than the other one. For a brother and sister this wouldn’t cause too many problems as they are not competing directly against each other. But what about brothers or sisters? Martin Fourcade is more successful than Simon but whenever they are on the podium together Simon has always finished ahead of his brother. Something he seems extremely happy about! It cannot be easy to see a sibling, especially a younger one, outperform you in a sport that you did first.
Personally I like the fact that there are so many siblings in Biathlon. It gives the sport a family feel and whether you are successful or not it’s all relative – brothers and sisters are for life not just for biathlon!