Norway Breaks Gold Medal Record at Beijing Olympics

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Norway's Winter Olympic team was predicted to do well in Beijing, but the gold medal haul so far has surpassed even those lofty expectations.

In this morning's men's mass start biathlon, Johannes Thingnes Bø took his fourth gold and fifth medal overall of Beijing 2022. But his win meant something much more for the Norway team.

Image: kovop58 / Shutterstock.com.
Image: kovop58 / Shutterstock.com.

It secured a new record haul of gold medals at any Winter Olympics. Bø's win was Norway's 15th gold of the games, surpassing the previous record. There's still time for Norway to win more, too.

Although Norway's high medal haul in Beijing was predicted, the new record still left many gushing about the achievement. “It's completely wild, and I've seen it in all kinds of sports. You have to explain to me why you are so good,” said John Nicolet, Swiss alpine commentator.

“I think what is impressive is that if you compare the size of the country and the number of people in it against the number of winners, it is very interesting to see. Countries like Switzerland or Austria must learn from you,” he continued.

Norway's golden team

Bø has stolen many of the headlines for winning 4 golds, but there have been other notable performances too.

Johannes Thingnes Bø, Norway biathlon winner. Photo: Bartosz Wlazlak / Shutterstock.com.
Johannes Thingnes Bø, Norway biathlon winner. Photo: Bartosz Wlazlak / Shutterstock.com.

For example, Marte Olsbu Røiseland became the first person to win a medal in all four individual biathlon events at a Winter Olympics.

The 31-year-old took bronze in the women's mass start biathlon, adding to her golds in the sprint and pursuit biathlon events, and bronze in the individual. She was also part of the gold-winning mixed relay team, meaning she is also the first woman to win five biathlon medals in a single Games.

Cross-country skier Therese Johaug celebrated her upcoming retirement by taking three gold medals. They are the icing on the cake of a fantastic career.

There have also been some surprises too. Marius Lindvik won ski jumping gold on the large hill, becoming the first Norwegian to win the event since Toralf Engan in 1964.

Norway under the global spotlight again

Over the past few days, the world's media have been trying to figure out exactly how Norway does well at the Winter Olympics.

Cross-country skier in the Norwegian landscape
Cross-country skiing in Norway.

International media such as the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times have all posed a similar question: how can a country of just 5.4 million people consistently perform so well at the highest level?

Read more: The Oslo 1952 Winter Olympics Remembered

Firstly, it's important to look at where the golds come from. Norway has never won medals in bobsleigh, luge or skeleton and have not won gold in figure skating since 1936.

Instead, Norway's success comes in cross-country skiing, ski jumping and the Nordic combined events. Together with biathlon, those events have been responsible for 13 of the 15 golds won in Beijing at the time of writing.

A focus on grassroots participation

The Norwegian saying “we are born with skis on our feet” certainly explains a lot. I've met a few Norwegians who don't like to ski, but almost never met one that cannot ski.

Lillehammer 1994
Lillehammer, Norway, hosted the Winter Olympics in 1994.

Most media coverage picks out Norway's focus on “grass roots participation” from a young age as a key reason for its success.

Read more: The Best Ski Resorts in Norway

NBC went as far as to say it's “fun and friendship” that fuels Norway's success.

Norway's Olympic chief, former Olympic rower Tore Øvrebø, told NBC that trying a variety of fun physical activities is preferable to specialising too young.

He also highlighted the working relationship among the athletes and coaches at the elite level in Norway.

“We are very occupied with creating a good environment, a stable environment, a safe environment, an environment full of fun, so they can really enjoy life when they are doing sport at a high level,” he said.

About David Nikel

Originally from the UK, David now lives in Trondheim and was the original founder of Life in Norway back in 2011. He now works as a professional writer on all things Scandinavia.

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5 thoughts on “Norway Breaks Gold Medal Record at Beijing Olympics”

  1. Hurra! Here’s just one example of grassroots participation. My son’s grade five class went on a ski trip last week. We recently relocated to Norway after living in the tropics his whole life, so he had never ski’d before. His teacher reserved feee skis for him to borrow from the municipality and the teacher taught him the basics! Great experience.

  2. Yes, this is what I tell people. Grass roots is the key. However it also has something to do with the amount of money spent maintaining the facilities so people can enjoy the sports, the well groomed tracks that stretch from one side of Norge to the other allows participants of any level to enjoy the sports.

    Heia Norge!

  3. Watching Norwegians on the ice is like watching poetry in motion. They have this incredible ability to know how to ski on its surface and maximise their own energy and efficiency while doing so. I suspect this talent does come from skiing being a way of life then just a sport. Still in the time of COVID 15 gold medal haul is impressive so congratulations!!


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