If you're a Norwegian sports nut, it doesn't get much better than this.
Hardly had Norwegian Fred Borre Lundberg won the Nordic combined event Saturday at the Olympics when countryman Bjorn Daehlie strode to his second gold medal in three days--third medal of these Games and seventh of his career--in the men's 15-kilometer cross-country skiing pursuit race.
Their victories gave Norway seven gold medals, more than any other country, and a total of 12 medals, two fewer than leading Russia. Best of all, the day's triumphs were achieved in Nordic events, which mean more in this country than speedskating, Alpine skiing, even World Cup soccer.
And in each case, enthusiastic crowds of 50,000 or more--estimates ranged as high as 100,000 for the pursuit race--were on hand, lining the course and turning the Birkebeineren ski stadium into a rippling sea of red, white and blue Norwegian flags.
"It's amazing, unbelievable," said Daehlie, who waved and blew kisses as he neared the finish line, then executed a 360-degree turn on his skis just before crossing it.
"I knew it was going to be crazy when I was out on the course, warming up, before the race. There were so many people."
Too many, according to American John Aalberg, a native Norwegian who only days ago was saying how great it was that so many people were turning out for cross-country races.
"It was crowded all the way around the loop," Aalberg said. "People were killing each other. I couldn't even look up at the people because I was afraid I would run into somebody or they might hit me."
In the pursuit race, a freestyle event, the winner of Thursday's 10k classical starts first, the rest of the skiers starting as far behind as they finished the earlier race. So, Daehlie started with an 18-second advantage over Vladimir Smirnov of Kazakhstan and 22 seconds ahead of Italy's Marco Albarello.
Albarello faded back to 10th--another Italian, Silvio Fauner, won the bronze--but Smirnov skied a strong race and cut into Daehlie's lead, if only briefly.
"I was afraid all the time because I was going extra hard in the beginning," Daehlie said. "I was very tired in the uphills and worried about Smirnov."
Daehlie kept pushing, though, and Smirnov fell off in his challenge about midway through the race, settling again for second.
In the second half of the Nordic combined, another 15k freestyle ski race, Lundberg, who had put himself into the lead Friday with two excellent jumps off the normal ski jumping hill, assured himself of the overall victory by running away from the field.
Carrying a a Norwegian flag a fan had handed him as he approached the finish line, Lundberg, who had started 23 seconds ahead, coasted across the finish line with a 1 minute 17.5-second victory.
"My (plan) was to open fast and scare the racers . . . behind me," Lundberg said. "I think it was a success."
Japan's Takanori Kono won the silver but another Norwegian, Bjarte Engen Vik, was third, eight-tenths of a second behind Kono. Kono had started fourth after the jump, 50 seconds behind Lundberg. Vik had started third, 43 seconds behind the leader.
Todd Lodwick, 17, of Steamboat Springs, Colo., who had surprised by jumping to fifth place Friday, fell to 13th in the cross-country race, 5:13 behind Lundberg. He had started 1:40 behind.