ISPO Munich/02/07/2019

Björndalen: "Biathlon Was Never a Job - It Was Always My Passion"

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At the VIP Dinner of ISPO Munich 2019, the head of the fair Klaus Dittrich handed the ISPO cup over to biathlet Ole Einar Björndalen - and the audience found out which trick the Norwegian used to stay hungry for gold over decades. 

Klaus Dittrich und Ole Einar Björndalen nach der Verleihung des ISPO Pokals auf dem roten Teppich.
Klaus Dittrich and Ole Einar Björndalen on the red carpet after the award of the ISPO cup.

The VIP Dinner was opened by Klaus Dittrich, Chairman of the Board of Management of Messe München GmbH, with an apology. "I must apologize to our Chinese guests," he said.

The date of ISPO Munich 2019 had prevented them from celebrating the beginning of the Chinese Year of the Pig, which stands for wealth and happiness. ISPO 2019, at least, already got lucky: ISPO is bigger than ever and has also won the OutDoor, which takes place for the first time in Munich this year. Thunderous applause.

Then he went on to the climax of the evening: The laudation for biathlete Ole Einar Björndalen.

Björndalen Won Eight Olympic Gold Medals

What a sportsman: Eight Olympic victories, four Olympic silver and one bronze medal, 45 World Championship medals and 94 World Cup victories in biathlon and cross-country skiing have made him the most successful winter sportsman of all time. Björndalen didn't just win gold - he won gold continuously over decades, most recently at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, when he was already 40 years old. What is the secret of this extraordinary sports career?

Björndalen's laudator Per Wiik, marketing manager of Madshus and long-time companion of Björndalen, gave a hint. He told the audience what Björndalen had done with all his gold medals.

"He put it in a bag and stowed it in the basement of his parents' house in the farthest corner of Norway." Björndalen never looked at them, he revealed. "He was afraid that he would lose his hunger. He immediately put it away because he wanted more."

Björndalen Sets Material Standards

From the stage of the VIP Dinner, Wiik addressed Björndalen directly: "I'm sure you're wondering what I'm doing here, because that's actually so far out of my comfort zone. But I have such great respect for you, I couldn't say no."

Besides all the talent and all the hard work, Björndalen is "an extraordinary tester", Wiik said. And towards Björndalen: "In 2004/05 you wanted to test skis from us. We weren't prepared for that. It wasn't just the gliding characteristics of the skis that mattered to you, you combined these characteristics with measurements like heart rate, lactate values and so on. You immediately set new test standards. Oh, just come on stage!"

Here, Björndalen  told him that the technical development for him "always was one of the most important things". The big secret is: "Communication". For him, it has always been central to "talk to developers, wax specialists and so on". And he explained: "Biathlon was never a job - it was always my hobby, my passion."

ISPO Cup Has Norwegian Tradition

To thunderous applause, fair boss Dittrich handed over the ISPO Cup to Ole Einar Björndalen. The award has existed since 1971. At that time the Norwegian ski jumper Birger Ruud also won the award for Norway. And it is not necessarily only athletes who are awarded the ISPO Cup. Last year, for example, Gertrude Boyle, president of Columbia won the prize. With cross-country skier Björn Dählie another Norwegian got the trophy in 2008.

Will he treat the trophy better than his medals, Dittrich asked Björndalen when the Norwegian held the ISPO trophy in his hands. Björndalen said that now that he ended his career, he would put all medals and trophies in his house.