Bjorndalen eyes record medal haul

Biathlete Ole Einar Bjorndalen will be seeking redemption at the Vancouver Games in his bid to become the most decorated Winter Olympian ever.


The 36-year-old Norwegian has won nine biathlon medals and needs four more in Vancouver to surpass the record of compatriot cross country skier Bjorn Daehlie.

But Bjorndalen's first priority will be returning to the top step of the podium after a disappointing performance in Turin four years ago.

Widely regarded at the best biathlete ever, Bjorndalen won the 10km Sprint in the 1998 Nagano Games and struck gold four times at Salt Lake four years later.

Though his haul in Turin was only two silvers and a bronze, Bjorndalen looks ready to revert to his golden form in the sport which combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting.

He has won six individual golds at the last three world championships, was twice overall World Cup champion and has been in outstanding form this season.

Bjorndalen and compatriot Emil Hegle Svendsen, 24, have won seven of the eight World Cup races they have entered and they skipped the last event in Italy to fine-tune their Olympic preparations.

Germany's Michael Greis upstaged Bjorndalen in Turin by claiming three golds, but the 33-year-old soldier has slipped in the standings in all disciplines this season.

"Winning three gold medals in Turin, that was a big moment for me," he said. "I do not feel any pressure because of it and I will be very happy if I travel home with a medal this time."

France's 12.5km pursuit champion Vincent Defrasne has also struggled this season.

"We have a good chance," his coach Siegfried Mazet said. "But there are so many good teams, like Austria, Norway and Russia. We will do our best but we also need them to make mistakes in order for us to win.

On the women's side, World Cup leader Helena Jonsson of Sweden should be well-rested after missing the last three World Cup events but she faces stiff competition from 23-year-old Magdalena Neuner of Germany, the overall World Cup winner in 2008.

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