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One of a kind

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The sky over Falun in Sweden was cloudy on 19 February 1993, but the sun was shining brightly for Kenji Ogiwara. The Japanese athlete crossed the finish line in the Nordic Combined World Championships with a lead of more than one and a half minutes, leaving a phalanx of Norwegian athletes behind him. By now it was clear that a great new talent was emerging. Ogiwara had already celebrated four World Cup victories by this point - 15 more were to follow. In addition to another World Cup gold in Trondheim in 1997, he won the overall World Cup three times in a row and team gold with Japan at the Olympic Games in Albertville in 1992 and Lillehammer in 1994.

Yet the young Kenji once had a completely different dream. "I wanted to be an actor," he revealed during the Tokyo 2020 Games. “When I told my father, he said: ‘Take part in the Olympic Games and win gold. Then you'll become very famous and it's easy to become an actor.’”

Alongside Norway's Bjarte Engen Vik, Ogiwara is still regarded as the most outstanding combined skier of the 1990s. After his victory in Oslo in 1995, he was the first non-European and first Asian to be awarded the Holmenkollen medal - probably the greatest honour for a Nordic skier - 100 years after the medal was first awarded.

After ending his sporting career in 2002, his dreams of becoming an actor never materialized. Instead, Ogiwara embarked on a career as a politician and was a member of the Japanese house of parliament from 2004 to 2010.