Where were you when Oddvar Braa broke his pole?
Oddvar Braa’s famous battle against Aleksadr Savjalov on the last leg of the infamous 4 x 10 kilometer relay in the 1982 World Championship is one of the most remembered and talked about events in Norwegian sport history.
Every leg was incredibly dramatic and it ended up with Oddvar Bra breaking his pole 1 k from the finish line when Savjalov tried to pass, getting a replacement pole, catching the Soviet team (Savjalov) on the last 100 meters, diving forward and tying the Soviet for the Gold!
This event ranks higher than most everything else in Norwegian sport history including Norway’s first ever victory against England in soccer!
The drama of this event (to Norwegians) is the same as the US beating the Soviet Hockey team in 1980 or seeing Michael Jordan score the winning basket as time expires in the NBA Finals.
Oddvar Bra and Savjalov met again 22 years later (and 20 kilo heavier) for another duel on Tuesday at the 2004 World Masters Championship in Lillehammer, Norway.
They were both entered in the 10 kilometer classic mass-start race in age category 50-54.
Braa was optimistic before start and felt it should be possible to beat his old rival easily despite having trained way to little the last couple years.
“Savjalov has gained 20 kilo and I haven’t,” said a smiling Braa before start.
It was the organizers of the event who had gotten the two former stars to meet again. It was not the first time. The last time it happened was in 1996 when Bra visited Savjalov as part of a television program. They have however not competed since their glory-days.
Both of them were hanging on at the start of the race, but none of them was able to hang on to the lead group in their age category. Braa stayed with them to the halfway point while Savjalov was five minutes behind at that point.
Norwegian Sigvald Oyberg won the race and Braa placed sixth. Savjalov crossed the finish line (quite a bit later) smiling with his hands in the air, in 42nd place
“I was with the leaders but the last half was very hard,” said Braa.
He was complaining about back spasms and could hardly bend over after the race.
Savjalov is married with four children and lives in the Moscow area. He has not prioritized training after his skiing carrier.
“I have not done any training,” said a smiling Savjalov.
“I have not done any real training for two years,” said Braa and he added that he still had his technique intact.
They both enjoyed meeting again.
“I was very relaxed to the outcome of this competition. The willpower and desire to beat him was higher in 1982, but it was still neat to meat him again,” said Oddvar Braa.
Braa can still remember the 1982 race. The large number of press people showed that the nation remembers it as well.
The race has become a part of Oddvar Braa’s life too. Â
I (still) hear about the pole-break an average of once per day, says Braa