Ole Einar Bjoerndalen

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China continues big-name Winter Olympic coaching hires with biathlon king

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China took another step toward its bid for home success at the 2022 Beijing Winter Games by hiring two of the greatest biathletes in history as national team coaches.

Norwegian Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, the male record holder with 13 Winter Olympic medals, and his wife, Belarus’ Darya Domracheva, a six-time medalist, will lead a Chinese biathlon program that has never earned an Olympic medal.

Previously, China hired Shaun White‘s former coach to guide its snowboarding program, a world champion German to coach bobsledders, a world champion Canadian to coach skeleton sliders, a world champion Swede to coach curlers and Dutch and South Korean coaches in speed skating.

China, the closest rival to the U.S. in Summer Olympic medals over the last 20 years, earned its first Winter Olympic gold medals in 2002. It reached as high as eighth in the total medal standings at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games.

The Chinese dropped to 14th place in PyeongChang with one gold medal from short track speed skater Wu Dajing.

But if China’s success in hosting the 2008 Summer Olympics is any indication (leading 48 gold medals, 100 total medals), it will become a major factor in two years.

MORE: China’s Olympic men’s basketball streak in danger

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Ole Einar Bjørndalen retires after six Olympics, 13 medals

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Ole Einar Bjørndalen, the most decorated male Winter Olympian with 13 medals, tearfully announced his retirement from biathlon on Tuesday, according to the International Biathlon Union.

Bjørndalen, a 44-year-old Norwegian, said he suffered from heart murmurs this season.

“My motivation is unstoppable,” he said, according to the IBU. “I have the pleasure and motivation to hold on to sports that are just amazing. I would like to take a few more years, but this is the last season.”

The Biathlon King’s Olympic career ended two months ago, when he was left off Norway’s team for PyeongChang, ending a bid for a seventh Winter Games.

Bjørndalen was omitted because of poor form up to that point in the season — individual results of 18th, 31st, 18th, 28th, 46th, 52nd, 36th and 42nd in World Cups. He also competed in the last three World Cups after the Olympics. Bjørndalen had three episodes of the heart issue during the season.

“It is not dangerous, but it is a discomfort,” he said, according to the IBU. “I always got it in a state of rest, never under stress, so I was never sure if I should compete or work hard. … We got it under control. … I responded well and received very good help from my health team, but I was constantly a concern.”

Bjørndalen became the oldest individual Winter Olympic champion in Sochi, where he also passed countryman Bjørn Daehlie for the career Winter Games medal record and tied Daehlie for the career gold-medal record (eight).

In PyeongChang, countrywoman and cross-country skier Marit Bjørgen earned five medals and two golds to break the total medals record (15) and tie Bjøerndalen and Daehlie with eight golds.

In 2016, Bjøerndalen committed to one more Olympic run after capturing medals in three of four individual events at the world championships in Oslo.

He also announced that spring that he and Belarusian biathlete Darya Domracheva, who won three golds at the Sochi Olympics, were having a baby.

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MORE: Best biathlon moments from PyeongChang Olympics

Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, most decorated Winter Olympian, left off Norway team

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Ole Einar Bjørndalen, the most decorated Winter Olympian with 13 medals, was left off Norway’s biathlon team for PyeongChang, ending his Olympic career at six Winter Games.

The 43-year-old was omitted because of his poor form this season — individual results of 18th, 31st, 18th, 28th, 46th, 52nd, 36th and 42nd this season, according to a press release Monday.

Bjørndalen became the oldest individual Winter Olympic champion in Sochi, where he also passed countryman Bjørn Daehlie for the career Winter Games medal record and tied Daehlie for the career gold-medal record (eight).

Bjøerndalen committed to one more Olympic run after capturing medals in three of four individual events at the 2016 World Championships in Oslo.

He also announced in spring 2016 that he and Belarusian biathlete Darya Domracheva, who won three golds at the Sochi Olympics, were having a baby.

Bjøerndalen’s medal records may not last through PyeongChang

Norwegian cross-country skier Marit Bjørgen is three medals shy and two gold medals shy of the career records.

The 37-year-old mom said last year that it’s a dream — but not a goal — and certainly motivation to try and pass Bjørndalen’s record in PyeongChang, according to Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang (VG).

She returned to competition from childbirth last season and dominated the world championships, winning three of the four individual events and anchoring Norway’s winning relay team.

Bjørgen has been less dominant this season, winning two of eight World Cup starts.

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MORE: PyeongChang Olympic schedule daily highlights

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