Norwegians from king to fans hail Olympic great Bjoerndalen
OSLO — Tributes streamed in for Norwegian biathlon athlete Ole Einar Bjoerndalen after he wrote a new chapter in his fabled career, becoming the all-time best winter Olympian with 13 medals.
"Norway's greatest athlete, I bow deeply in admiration," said former Norwegian cross-country skier Bjoern Daehlie.
Daehlie, who won 12 Olympic medals (eight gold, four silver), shared the top spot with Bjoerndalen but was overtaken when and the Norwegian biathlon team on Wednesday won the mixed relay to take Bjoerndalen's tally to 8-4-1.
"Ole Einar deserves the title — he is the greatest," Daehlie said in a text message to Oslo daily Aftenposten.
The 40-year-old Bjoerndalen told VGTV that Daehlie had sent him a congratulatory message, and that the message meant a lot to him.
Norwegian King Harald V, who watched the biathlon relay, told reporters he was "amazed" by Bjoerndalen and the biathlon team's achievement.
"I didn't think he would pass Daehlie. But he is a really special guy, so it is fun," the king said of Bjoerndalen.
Oslo tabloid VG said Bjoerndalen has written his name in sports history "in gold ink".
Several newspapers including Adressa.no and Bergens Tidende published photos of Bjoerndalen and the 13 Olympic races he won medals in.
Norway's win in the women's sprint relay and the biathlon relay win pushed Norway to the top of the medal table at the Sochi Games.
Oslo tabloid Dagbladet on Thursday ribbed neighbouring Sweden, traditionally a sporting arch-rival, with a front page headline:
"Hiya Sweden: We have 9 golds, how many do you have?"
The page one article was followed up inside the newspaper with a photo of Swedish King Carl Gustaf and a banner headline, "Carl Gustaf can you hear me?"
The newspaper said that "although Norway has had a few poor days at Sochi, in the span of two days this week we won four golds. Yesterday (Wednesday) we won as many (two gold medals) as Sweden has in total."
Aftenposten's front page also ran a photo of Bjoerndalen with the headline, "The king of the Olympics". The photo had the caption: "Russians know three words in Norwegian: Ole Einar Bjoerndalen."
Norwegian newspaper readers have written tributes to Bjoerndalen in online editions, several highlighted his long career and dedication to his sport.