Winter Olympics: What′s behind Norway′s medal dominance? | The 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang | DW | 21.02.2018
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Winter Olympics: What's behind Norway's medal dominance?

For a country of just 5.2 million, Norway has consistently punched above its weight in the medals tally at the Winter Games. Their domination has reached a new dimension in Pyeongchang this February.

"We are born with skis on our feet."

This is a common saying in Norway, and it was epitomized by Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo as he crossed the finish line in the men's cross-country team sprint on Wednesday.

In that moment, the Nordic country's 32nd Olympic medal, and 12th gold, at the Pyeongchang Games was confirmed. On Day 12, Norway had already surpassed their pre-Olympics goal of 30 medals.

"This is the highest ambition we have ever had and we like it," Norwegian Olympic Committee sports director Tore Oevreboe said back in November when the goal was announced.

"If we are to be among the top three nations, history tells us that we probably need to win 10 gold medals."

That ambitious aim now looks modest. Norway is on its way to making history — they are on target to eclipse Canada's record haul of 14 golds and the United States' 37 total medals, both set in Vancouver 2010.

The Nordic country's domination at the Winter Games is nothing new, but it has reached a remarkable level in Pyeongchang, where much larger nations such as Germany, the United States and Canada have been left in the dust.

Marit Bjoergen became the most decorated Winter Olympian in history as Norway secured bronze in the women's team sprint, earlier on Thursday.

Her 14th career Olympic medal eclipsed the 13 medals compatriot Ole Einar Bjorndalen had collected in biathlon events. Sitting in third on the all-time table? Yet another Norwegian, Bjorn Daehlie, who has 12.

With a population of just 5.2 million, compared with the 323 million of the US or the 82 million of Germany, how have they become the dominant force in South Korea?

The ambition and motivation is clearly there, as well as the ideal environment. Norway is regularly covered in heavy snow dumps between November and February amid sub-zero temperatures.

But while ambition and environment is one aspect, application is another. Norway has backed up its love for winter sports with investment; a newly opened Olympic Legacy Sports Centre in Lillehammer the latest proof of that. The facility provides athletes with world-class conditions, resources and expertise.

A successful 1994 Winter Games in Lillehammer also inspired a generation which makes up the current crop of Norwegian Olympians. They grew up worshipping winter sports heroes such as Kjetil Andre Aamodt and Espen Bredesen after witnessing a 10-gold-medal haul.

Team spirit has also been a key factor for Norway, with the men's alpine ski team a perfect example. The ski team reportedly spend 250 days of the year together — one of their unofficial rules is 'Taco Friday', every Friday — and all members, whether a veteran or rookie, are treated equally.

The 35-year-old Aksel Lund Svindal has helped grow that team spirit, "making the right small choices" according to alpine ski director Claus Ryste.

"That philosophy was coming from Aksel," he said. "It keeps you healthy. Team spirit, culture, we are a small nation with very little resources, we have to keep it tight and real."

With four days to go before the closing ceremony, becoming the most successful ever ever at a single Olympics could ensure a new folk saying is coined. 'Keeping it real' is certainly working for the Norwegians.