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Johan Hagbart Pedersen Grøttumsbråten, the gold digger

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17 February, 1928. As the Norwegian cross-country skiers started the 18 km competition in St. Moritz, it can be imagined they had a chip on their shoulder. Just a few days before, with temperatures soaring to 25 degrees, they had been outclassed by their Swedish rivals over the longer distance. But with a new Olympic competition came a new chance – and this time it was Johan Grøttumsbråten's turn.

Born 25 years before FIS was founded, the man from Sørkedalen near Oslo was one of the defining figures of Nordic skiing in the 1920s; he had already scooped silver and bronze medals at the Chamonix Olympics, and in St. Moritz he scooped gold for the full set.

For a moment, Grøttumsbråten's destiny was in the balance as rainy weather threatened a cancellation of the race. But as the temperature dropped, the track became hard and icy, and nothing could stand in the Norwegians’ way. Together with the Swedes and Finns, they set the pace from the start and "sprinted all the way to the finish", as the chroniclers noted with admiration.

Grøttumsbråten took first place – and with it a head start in the Nordic combined ski jumping competition, where a solid performance was enough for him to triumph. He repeated his Nordic combined victory in Lake Placid in 1932. As Olympic victories are also world championship victories, and as the Scandinavian became world champion in Lahti in 1926 and twice in Oberhof in 1931, he had six FIS world championship titles by the end of his career.

Johan Grøttumsbråten did not compete in the 50 kilometres in St. Moritz. The 18 km in Lake Placid, where he was unable to defend his gold medal and finished sixth, remains his only Olympic competition in which he did not win a medal. It is a side note that does not diminish his great career.