JEANETTE: These days are putting our mental strength to the test. We need some motivation and inspiration. Today’s guest might be able to help with that.
Through 25 years at the top of his sport, the “King of Biathlon” has impressed the world with his abilities to handle challenges and pressure. Ole Einar Bjørndalen won 13 medals in the Olympics, 45 medals in World Championships, and had 95 individual World Cup wins before he retired a couple of years ago.
One incident in particular at the very start of his career set a standard.
OLE EINAR: That was quite many years ago. It was in 1998 in Japan, in Nagano. I was very well-prepared for this competition. It was a 10 kilometer sprint. The race went really well. Around 2 kilometers before the finish, they cancelled this race because it was too much wind and too much bad weather, so they felt it was not a fair competition.
I was in the lead. I got a message from my staff people. They said I was 15 seconds in front, so that was my first gold medal, I thought. But as you remember, directly before I finished, they cancelled the race.
I got really angry up in the mountain there and smashed my skis and poles on the track, for sure. But then I understood that this race was not finished after a few minutes. I needed to come back to the stadium. So I skied slowly down to the stadium again, and then I saw a lot of media and journalists and I knew exactly what they would ask me about.
I thought, “Why should I speak to them? This race is not finished. I used 4 years for this competition; I don’t want to miss this competition again.” So I went straight forward, didn’t speak with anyone, no media, nothing, because I had no reason because the race was not finished. I would make this race finished before I spoke with anyone.
Then I went into my wax cabin, and in my wax cabin, my waxer was sitting in a corner there and he was more sad than me. He was sitting and crying because he lost also one gold medal. I remember the words I said to him. “I have fantastic skis these days,” and I said, “Thank you for the skis. Make the skis the same tomorrow, because it was really great.”
Then I took the bus down to the hotel. I needed to think about the next day. For sure I was feeling a bit sad, but I went to the hotel, took some food, and then I called my mental coach. This mental coach, Øyvind Hammer, I’d worked with him since two years before. We went through this competition the day before this race, and for sure I had to call him and explain what had happened.
He took the phone and he was a little bit different coach than others, because he was not interested in biathlons. He was more interested in what I am doing. I’m not sure if he was looking at this competition because he had a big business and he worked like hell, so I’m not sure if he looked at this on TV.
His first question was, “How was the race?” I explained it. “Skiing was fantastic. First round was also good. I shot four, and on the last shot I missed one and I put my rifle – but still I went in front because I was fast skier this time. Shot clean standing, so everything was good.” Then I explained they stopped the race.
Then it was quiet a little bit from him, and he said to me, “You’re quite lucky that you have a chance to make this race again, because we had an agreement yesterday” – because he prepared every race an agreement. I prepared on the paper, I wrote everything down what I had to do, and I signed it. When you sign the paper, then you need to hold what you write on the paper.
This time I didn’t hold my prone shooting. I was not on the place. I had the rifle on my back before I shot the last shot, almost. So he said to me, “We’ll do exactly the same preparation for the next race the day after, and you should do a single shot, prone, single shot standing, and don’t l