Career Retrospective: Odd-Bjoern Hjelmeset
A skier after my own heart, he was! Skating? Bah! That’s for losers!
Hjelmeset was the quintessential classic specialist:
If you’re basically only going to do classic races, you’d better be pretty good at them, and Hjelmeset certainly was. His World Cup career included 119 classic starts, only 26 freestyle starts and another 9 pursuits (mixed technique). All but one of his 26 WC podiums were in classic races. Those podiums included 4 World Championships podiums and one Olympic podium.
That’s one area that being such a specialist will hurt you: the Olympics only come once every four years, the techniques will alternate on the events, and nations won’t be as likely to use one of their spots on someone who can only do 1-2 events.
But his one WC podium in a freestyle race opens up the window to the other quirky aspect of Hjelmeset’s racing. It actually came in a sprint race, waaaay back in the day in 2001. Hjelmeset excelled at classic skiing, and amusingly it didn’t much matter what the distance was.
He finished his career with 7 WC level sprint podiums and 9 distance podiums in races 30km or longer. The only other skiers even remotely close in terms of that split are Petter Northug (14 sprint, 17 30km+) and Dario Cologna (7 sprint, 7 30km+). And they just happen to be essentially the two best all around male skiers.
Most of that sprinting success, though, was earned a while back:
So chalk that up for sprinting being a bit harder as you get older, I suppose.