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Saturday, 16 February, 2002, 23:00 GMT

Aamodt on another level

Kjetil Andre Aamodt is simply one of the greatest all-round skiers of all time.

The Norwegian has seven Olympic medals to his name - a record for an alpine skier - with the latest addition being the gold he won in the men's super-G at Salt Lake City.

That victory came only three days after his previous gold medal in the men's combined event.

In total, he has amassed 17 world championship and Olympic medals - almost belittling the achievements of other skiers.

And all this from a man whose Norwegian birthright virtually demands that he should have taken to cross-country.

The medal haul
Winter Olympics 1992: super-G gold & giant slalom bronze
1994: downhill silver, combined silver & super-G bronze
2002: combined gold & super-G gold


World Champs 1991: super-G silver
1993: slalom gold, giant slalom gold & combined silver
1996: super-G bronze
1997: combined gold
1999: combined gold & downhill bronze
2001: combined gold & giant slalom silver

Nordic skiing is the number one discipline in Aamodt's homeland, alpine skiing its poor relation.

"Cross-country is our national sport into pre-history, alpine is just not at the same level," team spokesman Lars Otto Bjorndalen explains.

Even though Aamodt's success means he will enjoy greater exposure, the country's roll-call of sporting honour is headed by Bjorn Daehlie, the retired nordic skier.

But that is the only accolade Aamodt has failed to win in his climb to the peak of his chosen sport.

The 31-year-old described his Super-G win as "unbelievable".

It was his seventh gold in total - his third at the Olympics - and came 10 years after his first at Albertville in 1992.

On that occasion Aamodt wore the number three bib, just as he did en route to his latest triumph.

"The combined was the important one for me and when I managed to win that one it gave me a bit of confidence," he explained.

"This is a bonus. To win the super-G again after 10 years is a dream come true - it's hard to believe."

Despite the evident surprise, the win is a reward for a career dedicated to a sport he loves.

Born in Oslo, the young Aamodt learnt his trade on a small slope to the east of the capital and has never looked back.

Having first competed on the world stage as a 16-year-old in 1988, when he finished second last, he is able to ally vast experience to his unquestionable natural talent.

If a decade in the top 10 and the collection of medals are not testament enough to that, Aamodt shares a major distinction with the very best in the business.

World Cup record
Titles 1993: giant slalom & super-G
1994: overall
2000: slalom


Overall runner-up 1993:
to Marc Girardelli
1997:
to Luc Alphand
1999:
to Lasse Kjus
2000:
to Hermann Maier

"I feel I have to prove myself in the World Cup"
Kjetil Andre Aamodt

As well as pulling further away from the likes of Alberto Tomba, Vreni Schneider and Katja Seizinger in the the most decorated stakes, he is one of only four men to have celebrated World Cup success in all five alpine disciplines.

A slalom win in Wengen in January 2000 saw him emulate Switzerland's Pirmin Zubriggen, Luxembourg's Marc Girardelli and Guenther Mader of Austria.

If Aamodt finishes in the top three in the slalom he will become the first skier in history to win an Olympic medal in all five alpine disciplines.

"I love skiing, I love competition and I've worked hard all my life," Aamodt explains of his success.

"To win all those medals is something you don't plan to do, it's not something you think about.

"People will have to ski well in the future to catch me, but in alpine, if you take any medal it's a great achievement."

And the secret of his success?

"It's not a secret - just work hard. I don't think there are a lot of skiers who have worked that hard."

Aamodt knows that in the eyes of many he is nearing the end of his career.

The bad news for his peers is that he intends to keep working hard until the next Olympics in Turin.

"I'll continue four more years - I'll stand by that. There's no reason to quit if the health is good."

By then he may even have pipped Bjorn Daehlie in the eyes of his countrymen.


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