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40-year-old Hanevold wins Biathlon gold

Olympics: Biathlon

Sat, Feb  27, 2010 - By Mattias Karen


WHISTLER, British Columbia (AP) Despite his three Olympic golds, Halvard Hanevold's long biathlon career has passed by in relative obscurity, overlooked in the giant shadow of Norwegian teammate Ole Einar Bjoerndalen.

The 40-year-old Hanevold finally has a record of his own, however, after becoming the oldest biathlete to win an Olympic medal by skiing the first leg to help Norway take gold in Friday's men's relay.

It was the perfect ending to Hanevold's Olympic career. He's retiring after this season, after an individual gold from the 1998 Nagano Games and a relay win in Salt Lake City, along with three other medals.

"This is the biggest highlight of my career," said Hanevold, who also owns five world championship titles, albeit only one individual. "To win a gold medal with these crazy guys, and be able to have a good celebration."

But like so many of his accomplishments, even this one was overshadowed by Bjoerndalen.

The 36-year-old all-time great earned his sixth Olympic gold by deciding the relay on the final leg, getting some redemption for an otherwise disappointing games. But while Bjoerndalen owns virtually every significant biathlon record when it comes to race wins and championship medals, he's unlikely to break Hanevold's age mark. Bjoerndalen plans to compete at the Sochi Olympics in 2014, but he will be nearly two months younger than what Hanevold is now.

"I never thought I would be able keep going for this long," Hanevold said. "I've been doing this for 20 years. But I've never been as motivated as I've been this year. I knew this would be the last thing I do, and I used that to push myself harder."

Good thing too, since some of his rivals - and teammates - are nearly half his age. On Friday, he turned over to 21-year-old Tarjei Boe at the first exchange.

"That's why I'm quitting, because I'm tired of feeling like I'm in kindergarten all the time," Hanevold joked. "But apart from that, we have a really good team, with lots of humor. I think it's a very good dynamics with experience and also the young people who are very aggressive and self confident. We old guys get a lot of spirit from the young guys, with their aggressiveness."

They get to hear some jokes abut their age, too.

"Halvard has been around for, I don't know, 50 years," Boe said, before paying tribute to his elder teammates.

"All these guys have won so many medals," Boe said. "This is my first year with those guys, and it's a pretty good team."

Hanevold, who plans to go into motivational speaking after retiring from the sport, said Friday's relay was the best he has ever seen from a Norwegian team. He should know - he has taken part in 63 relays at championships or World Cup meets since 1994. He made his World Cup debut in the 1991-92 season.

While this was his last competition at a major event, there was no hint of sadness when he finished the race.

"It's not sad at all," he said. "I've accomplished what I came here to do."