Emil Hegle Svendsen

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Emil Hegle Svendsen joins list of Norway Olympic star retirements

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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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Russia wins men’s biathlon relay; Bjoerndalen denied record 9th gold

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A tough final leg for Emil Hegle Svendsen in today’s biathlon men’s relay spelled the end of fellow Norwegian Ole Einar Bjoerndalen’s bid to win a record ninth Winter Olympic gold medal.

Bjoerndalen was on the third leg of the relay for Norway and went 10-for-10 in shooting before giving Svendsen, your Sochi mass start winner, a slim lead.

He was able to keep it through the prone shooting range, but in standing position, Svendsen missed multiple shots and was forced to take a penalty lap.

That effectively finished the race for the Norwegians, who finished fourth and out of the medals.

Bjoerndalen, known as the “Biathlon King,” was seeking to break his gold medal tie with cross-country skier Bjorn Daehlie. In the mixed relay earlier this week, he passed Daehlie as the most decorated Winter Olympian ever by earning his 13th medal and eighth gold.

Instead, it was Russia, Germany and Austria on the podium, with Russia’s Anton Shipulin (pictured) holding off Germany’s Simon Schempp on the final straightaway to give the host nation its 11th gold in these Games.

MORE: Marit Bjorgen wins third Sochi gold in women’s mass start

MEN’S BIATHLON – 4X7.5KM RELAY
1. Russia, 1:12:15.9
2. Germany, +3.5 seconds
3. Austria, +29.8 seconds

16. United States, +5:23.2

Men’s biathlon mass start comes down to a photo finish

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Ego almost got the better of Norway’s Emil Hegle Svendsen in the final moments of today’s men’s biathlon mass start.

Svendsen got by France’s Martin Fourcade in the last turn to set up a thrilling chase for the finish line.

And just before they crossed the stripe, Svendsen pulled up and raised his arms in triumph, believing he had the race won.

It nearly cost the Norwegian the gold medal, when an unexpected last burst from Fourcade at the very end created a photo finish and sent him tumbling into the snow.

But in the end, Svendsen was victorious after almost grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory. The two finished with identical times of 42:29.1.

source: Getty Images
Emil Hegle Svendsen (left) nearly sends himself into Olympic infamy in his finish with Martin Fourcade (right) at the men’s biathlon mass start. Photo: Getty Images

Svendsen now has his third Olympic gold medal and fourth medal overall, while Fourcade adds a silver to his two golds he’s already gotten in Sochi.

Ondrej Moravec of the Czech Republic wound up with the bronze. Tim Burke finished 21st to lead the U.S.

MORE: NBCOlympics.com slideshow of today’s close finish

MEN’S BIATHLON – MASS START
1. Emil Hegle Svendsen (NOR), 42:29.1
2. Martin Fourcade (FRA), 42:29.1
3. Ondrej Moravec (CZE), 42:42.9

21. Tim Burke (USA), 44:55.9
23. Lowell Bailey (USA), 45:19.2