No one’s telling Ole Einar Bjørndalen when to call it quits. At 41, the Norwegian biathlete — dubbed the King of Biathlon with the most medals of any Winter Olympian — is just hitting his stride after an offseason hindered by illness, and he remains focused on the 2016 IBU World Championships in Oslo, Norway.
He placed third in a recent skate race against fellow national team members at the upcoming World Championships venue at Holmenkollen. It was the first test of his race form after he missed six weeks of training this summer.
“It is better than expected,” he told NRK after the race, noting that he hadn’t logged many hard training sessions since March.
Bjørndalen feared his goal for winning gold at a World Championships on home soil — the one accolade that alludes him — was in jeopardy after a long bout with a bacterial infection. He skipped the national team’s altitude camp earlier this month and has been monitoring his progress carefully, planning ahead half a month at a time.
“I’m running tests every 14 days. It follows the shape and development, and what I can tolerate in training,” he said. “I take just 14 days at a time so I work out from there.”
Tests involve lactate profiles to measure his response to workouts. He said he’s been getting the indicators he’s been looking for, giving him green lights to go ahead with his training.
“When I get the message that I can travel to [greater] heights, then I travel to altitude,” he said. In previous seasons, Bjørndalen trained hundreds of hours at high elevations, according to Aftenposten.
He resolved that this would be his focus season a while ago, and to help him achieve his goals, he added a 20-ton custom RV — complete with three drivers, a rollerski treadmill, six beds, a kitchen, bathroom, 690-gallon water tank, and room for a laser-gun shooting range — to his fleet.
“I’ve thought about it for over five years and worked on it for two years,” he told Norway’s TV2 of the recreational vehicle designed to meet his training needs when the weather keeps him inside. “The dream has been to bring the training to a new level.”
Even after dominating biathlon for 20 years, Bjørndalen said dreams are what makes him tick.
“If you do not have dreams, it is not worth holding on,” he told Aftenposten, according to a translation. “There are those dreams you have in mind at every jog and each hard workout.”
Asked specifically about his training over the years, he said, “There is no hocus pocus. I really just followed a training schedule that we know has worked for 25 years. It is a program of rowing and cross-country skiing. I really do only what the old guys in cross country has been doing for a long time.”
As for his plans for two seasons out in 2016/2017, Bjørndalen indicated he might back off training.
“I’ll look at my life,” he said. “In many ways it has been put on hold for 20 years.”