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It’s Norway’s Games Again. What’s Its Secret?

It’s Norway’s Games Again. What’s Its Secret?
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Sunday, 20 February, 2022, 23:42

Norway, with a population of just five million, is executing its quadrennial triumph over the rest of the world.

It may not surpass the historic 2018 Pyeongchang Games, when Norway won 39 medals, eight more than its closest competitor, Germany, which has 16 times as many people.

But it’s close.

Norway won its 15th gold medal of the Beijing Games on Friday, a record for a single country at a Winter Olympics. That total put it seven ahead of Russia (population 144 million) in the overall medals table through Friday, and five ahead of Germany (population 83 million) in the race for the most golds.

Its most recent triumph came in men’s biathlon, but Norway also has medals in ski jumping, Nordic combined, speedskating and cross-country and freestyle skiing.

“We have a strong team,” said Kjetil Jansrud, the champion Alpine skier. “We always do.”

More than strong. Norway is now so successful it has become the winter sports beacon. American skiers, both Alpine and cross-country, have trained with Norwegian athletes on the same mountains and glaciers for years. Every year, the country brings 150 of the top international junior cross country skiers to a camp to learn technique and train with the sport’s top coaches. Norway has had a partnership with Britain to develop and share wax technology for Nordic skiing.

During the last four years though, several countries have sent their top sports leaders to study the country’s methods — well, the ones its specialists will share — highlighting the latest step in Norway’s elite winter sports hospitality.

“After watching what Norway did in Pyeongchang, I just told my team we are going over there, and we are going to figure out what the hell is going on and what they are doing,” said Luke Bodensteiner, then the director of sport for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association, the national governing body for skiing.

And so, that spring, Bodensteiner and top executives went to visit their competition.

Norway’s willingness to offer tutorials to competitors may seem strange, but, while it wants to win, it also wants to make sure the winter sports its prizes are thriving, and that will only happen if the competition is tough.