At the inaugural Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) awards ceremony on Friday, Norwegian biathlete Ole Einar Bjørndalen received the Best Male Athlete award for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia. More than 1,000 delegates from 204 national Olympic committees attended the gala ceremony in Bangkok, Thailand.
“This must be the most significant award I’ve ever received,” Bjørndalen, 40, told the Norwegian Athletic Association.
After winning two gold medals at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, in the the 10-kilometer sprint and mixed relay, Bjørndalen became the most decorated Winter Olympian of all time, with a total of 13 medals: eight gold, four silver and one bronze.
His achievements and performances in Sochi were honored during the ANOC’s General Assembly in Bangkok. The first-ever ANOC awards ceremony honored Olympians and the national Olympic committees that delivered outstanding performances at a given Olympics.
“I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has helped me throughout my career,” he said. “There are too many to mention all the names, but I want to extend a very special thank you to all my coaches, service staff, the Norwegian National Biathlon Association, Olympiatoppen [Norwegian Olympic Development Center] and all my good partners. Everyone who has supported me has contributed to my development and performances, and deserves a part of the honor for this award. I am proud that biathlon is the sport that goes all the way to the top –the jury was considering athletes from much bigger international sports.”
Twenty-five broadcasters reported live from the ceremony, reaching as many as more than 300 million people. There were more than 1,200 accredited journalists Friday as well, and as always, the seasoned Bjørndalen was prepared.
“I have known for a while that I was a candidate for this award,” he said.” I have been at a training camp for almost four weeks and trained well in order to take two days off for this ceremony in Bangkok. I have been looking forward to this little mini break in my training schedule. I planned the journey very carefully, and with a direct flight from Oslo, it is quite convenient. In my carry-on, I brought 20 slices of my favorite whole-grain bread baked by our excellent chef Eva. Tomorrow, Saturday, I am flying straight back, leaving tropical Bangkok for perfect skiing at Beitostølen [Norway].”
“In my carry-on, I brought 20 slices of my favorite whole-grain bread.” — Ole Einar Bjørndalen, Norwegian biathlete, the most decorated Winter Olympian of all time, and Best Male Athlete of the 2014 Sochi Olympics
Inge Andersen, secretary general in the Norwegian Athletic Association (Norges Idrettsforbund), was also present for the awards. In his opinion, there was was no one more deserving of the award than Bjørndalen.
“Ole Einar impressed everyone during the Sochi Olympics,” Andersen said. “Two Olympic gold medals were more than anyone could expect, but still I’m not really surprised. This is the most winning Winter Olympian, from the small town of Simostranda. We are very proud of Ole Einar. He represents the best of Norwegian athletes.”
Other award-winners include:
– Best Female Athlete of the 2014 Sochi Olympics: Irene Wust (Dutch speed skater; won five medals, the most of any competitor at the 2014 Olympics, with two gold and three silver)
– Best Men’s Team in Sochi: Canada/men’s ice hockey (won gold)
– Best Women’s Team in Sochi: Canada/women’s ice hockey (won gold)
– Most Successful Country in Sochi: Russia (topped the medals table with 33 medals, 13 of which were gold)
– Best Male Athlete of the 2012 London Olympics: David Rudisha (Kenyan middle distance runner; broke 800-meter world record)
– Best Female Athlete of the 2012 London Olympics: Li Xiaoxia (Chinese table tennis player; won two gold medals in London, in singles and team events)
– Best Men’s Team in London: France/handball (first team to win back-to-back gold medals in the event)
– Best Women’s Team in London: Brazil/volleyball (second-straight gold)
– Most Successful Country in London: United States (topped medals table with 104 medals, 46 of which were gold)
– Outstanding Achievement Award: Larisa Latynina (former Soviet gymnast; earned 18 Olympic medals between 1956 and 1964; her record stood until Michael Phelps topped it in London. According to Reuters, Phelps congratulated her personally with a note that was read out loud during the ceremony.)
– Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award: Jacques Rogge (former International Olympic Committee president)
About the author:
A longtime contributor, Inge Scheve was born and bred in Norway, and learned to ski about the time she learned to walk. She always loved skiing, but didn’t really get into racing until she came to the University of Alaska Fairbanks, where she was introduced to collegiate ski racing American style. After UAF, she moved to Bend, Ore., in 2001 to ski with XC Oregon. She has competed for the U.S. in four World Masters, earning three gold medals, as well as a couple of silver and bronze medals.
When she’s not skiing, Inge loves caribou hunting on the tundra in her native Rendalen valley in Norway, dabbles in adventure racing, mountain biking, road cycling, hiking, trail running and kayaking. Inge really wants to become a wine snob, but realizes that probably involves learning to like red wine.