In the last week, three Norwegians who won a combined 36 Winter Olympic medals announced retirements.
The latest came in a tearful news conference on Monday.
Biathlete Emil Hegle Svendsen ended his career at age 32 after four Winter Games and eight medals, plus 21 world championships medals (including 12 golds).
Svendsen said it was “actually a huge pleasure” to retire, that he “needed a little time after the Olympic Games season because I often felt that the spark could come back. But I wasn’t close to [getting it back],” according to The Associated Press.
Svendsen’s farewell came after the two most decorated Winter Olympians of all time — biathlete Ole Einar Bjørndalen and cross-country skier Marit Bjørgen — announced their retirements last week.
Svendsen would come to be billed as “The Prince” and heir to the throne of “The King” Bjørndalen, who is 12 years older. Svendsen was 20 years old when he debuted at the Olympics in 2006 with a sixth-place finish in the mass start.
He blossomed into the World Cup overall champion in 2009-10, a season where he took individual and relay Olympic gold, plus silver in the sprint in Whistler, B.C.
Svendsen dominated the 2013 World Championships with a pair of individual golds, two more relay golds and an individual bronze medal. His Sochi Olympics didn’t start well — ninth, seventh and seventh in his first three events — but he won the mass start in a photo finish over French rival Martin Fourcade.
Svendsen is also remembered for shocking struggles in the last event in Sochi — the men’s relay. He was given the lead to anchor the Norwegian quartet, and a chance for Bjørndalen to earn his record-breaking ninth career Winter Olympic title. But Svendsen missed three targets, and Norway fell from first to fourth.
Svendsen went into PyeongChang believing it would be his final Olympics. Again, he made up for poor early finishes (10th, 18th and 20th) by making the mass-start podium (bronze). He then earned silver medals in the relays.
“It’s a good idea that all such decisions are taken based on the feeling you have, and that is that I’m in the dessert in my career,” Svendsen said last fall, according to NBC Olympic Research.
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