Aamodt, Kjetil Andre
Kjetil Andre Aamodt
Norwegian alpine skier
Kjetil Andre Aamodt of Norway, nicknamed "Baby Shark," won two gold medals in Alpine skiing at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Utah. These were his second and third Olympic gold medals, and they brought his Olympic medal total to seven—more than any other Alpine skier in history. Aamodt has won top honors at both the Olympics and in international championships in five skiing events—slalom, giant slalom, downhill, combined, and super-G, for 17 medals overall.
Growing up in Oslo, Aamodt (pronounced "AHmott") idolized the great Swedish skier Ingemar Stenmark , whose 86 World Cup race victories stand alone. Young Aamodt would hurry home after school to watch Stenmark's races on television.
Aamodt's father, Finn Dag, is one of the most highly regarded Alpine ski instructors in Norway; Aamodt, not surprisingly, was an accomplished skier by age seven. He also played many other sports and he has continued to play golf, soccer, and ice hockey as adult.
Aamodt first came to prominence as a skier in 1990 when he became a junior world champion. He skied in his first World Cup in 1989-90, in time to meet his idol, Stenmark, who was still ranked No. 1 in the world. "I did not know him very well," Aamodt told the Houston Chronicle 's John P. Lopez. "I was usually in the second (slower) group. When I met him, I thought he would be taller."
Aamodt enjoys a special rivalry with one of his peers, Lasse Kjus. They are the same age, attended the same skiing school and frequently compete in the same races. The childhood friends also roomed together for 10 years. "We have a great rivalry, a great friendship and we help each other," Aamodt told the Salt Lake Tribune 's Tom Wharton. Kjus was the world's first skier to win five medals at a world championship, which he did at Vail, Colorado in 1999.
Aamodt, after finishing 34th overall in the 1989-90 World Cup, improved his standing each year. He moved
up to 17th and 13th, then finished in second place in 1992-93 in second place after Marc Girardelli of Luxembourg edged him out for his fifth title, despite Aamodt's end-of-the-season surge. The season, Aamodt said, was "kind of up and down." Aamodt finally took the gold at the World Cup in 1993-94, at age 22.
First Olympic Gold
In 1992, Aamodt won the gold medal in the super-G and a bronze in the giant slalom at the Olympics in Albertville, France. That year he also won the gold medal for the giant slalom in the world championships. The following year, he won gold medals in the slalom and the giant slalom, as well as a bronze in the combined at the world championships.
In 1994, Norway hosted the Winter Olympics at Lillehammer, and Aamodt took home two silver medals, one in the combined, and one in the downhill event, as well as a bronze medal in the super-G. In 1996, Aamodt won a bronze medal in the super-G at the world championships, and in 1997, took home a gold medal in the combined at the world championships.
But he fared poorly at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan, winning no medals. He told the Associated Press, "I felt like I hadn't done my job, and failed totally in both the super-G and combined. But I took the experiences from Nagano with me."
The following year, Aamodt redeemed himself by winning the gold in the combined and the bronze in the downhill at the world championships. He again won gold in the combined in the 2001 world championships, as well as a silver medal in the giant slalom.
Aamodt, at age 30, clinched his Alpine-record seventh Olympic medal at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City by mastering the most difficult section of the super-G course. It was called the Buffalo Jump, because, as local legend had it, Native American hunters would chase buffalo over the precipice to certain doom at the bottom. The Olympians also had to make a hairpin left turn afterwards to avoid leaving the course. Although all the skiers survived Buffalo Jump, the turn forced many, including four of the top favorites, off the course. Of the 56 starters, 21 could not complete the course.
Aamodt, the third skier out of the gate, won his second gold medal of the Olympiad by completing the course one-tenth of a second better than runner-up Stephan Eberharter of Austria. Aamodt's winning time was 1 minute, 21.58 seconds.
Eberharter complained that he was insuffiently warned about that sharp turn after the Buffalo Jump. "I lost by a tenth of a second," Eberharter said. "That could have been the difference." Aamodt, unsympathetic, told reporters that super-G competitors get only one walk-through. "In the super-G," he said, "you inspect the course once and then you have a go at it. You make quick, good early decisions or you don't."
It was Aamodt's second gold of the Olympiad. Four days earlier, he won the men's Alpine combined. "To win [another] Super G after 10 years in the Olympics is just a dream come true," Aamodt told the Edmonton Journal 's Rob Gloster. "I've worked hard all my life. I love skiing. I love competition. That's the secret of my success."
Aamodt has no plans to slow down, telling reporters at the Olympics he felt he could continue to compete at world-class levels for at least the next four years. "I've made my mark in the Olympics, but I still feel like I have a lot to prove," he said. Besides, he said, with "only" 20 World Cup victories, he had a lot of catching up to do if he wanted to approach Stenmark's record of 86.
In February, 2003, Aamodt earned a record 12th world Alpine championship medal, finishing second, 49-hundredths of a second behind Michael Walchhofer of Austria. "He has not been as consistent a World Cup force as greats like Ingemar Stenmark, Alberto Tomba and [Hermann] Maier , but he has clearly mastered the art of peaking for the big race," Christopher Clarey of the New York Times wrote of Aamodt in February, 2003.
|1972||Born in Oslo, Norway|
|1989||Begins rookie season in World Cup competition|
|1998||Shut out of medals Winter Olympics at Nagano, Japan|
Awards and Accomplishments
|1990||Wins junior world championship|
|1991||Silver medal, super-G event, World Championships|
|1992||Gold medal, super-G, bronze in giant slalom, Olympics|
|1993||First place, giant slalom, World Cup|
|1993||First place, super-G, World Cup|
|1993||Third place, combined skiing and second place, overall, World Cup|
|1993||Gold medal, slalom and giant slalom and silver medal, combined skiing, World Championships|
|1994||First place, combined skiing, second place, giant slalom and first place, overall, World Cup|
|1994||Silver medal, downhill skiing and combined skiing, and bronze medal, super-G, Olympics|
|1996||Bronze medal, super-G, World Championships|
|1997||First place, combined skiing and second place, overall, World Cup|
|1997||Gold medal, combined skiing, World Championships|
|1998||Second place, combined skiing, World Cup|
|1999||First place, combined skiing and sec ond place, overall, World Cup|
|1999||Gold medal, combined skiing and bronze medal, downhill, World Championships|
|2000||First place, combined skiing and slalom, second place, overall, World Cup|
|2001||Third place, combined skiing, World Cup|
|2001||Gold medal, combined skiing and silver medal, giant slalom, World Championships|
|2002||Gold medal super-G event and combined skiing, Olympics; wins seventh overall medal, world record for Alpine skier|
|2003||12th world Alpine championship medal|
Aamodt lives in Monaco, where he mostly stays out of the media spotlight, training in relative seclusion.
Chamberlain, Tony. "Medaling Is His Business: Aamodt Earns Record Seventh." Boston Globe (February 17, 2002): D2.
Clarey, Christopher. International Herald Tribune (February 15, 2002): Sport, 18.
Gloster, Rob. "Baby Shark Bites into Super-G: Norway's Aamodt Kills Medal Hopes of Several Favourites." Edmonton Journal (February 17, 2002): C5.
"Kjetil Andre Aamodt Factfile." Agence France Presse (February 16, 2002): Sports.
Lopez, John P. "'Baby Shark'Aamodt Captures Second Event After Failing to Strike Gold for 10 Years." Houston Chronicle (February 17, 2002): Special, 6.
Mellgren, Doug. "Norwegian Star Seeks Missing Medals at Olympics." Associated Press (February 2, 2002): Sports News.
Nasstrom, Stephan. "Norway's Aamodt Shows Steady Improvement." Associated Press (November 21, 1993): Sports News.
Pennington, Bill. "Olympics: Alpine; Aamodt Makes a Precision Turn, Then Makes History." New York Times (February 17, 2002): section 8, page 9.
Spencer, Clark. "King of the Hill Wins Again; Aamodt Runs Medal Total to Seven." Ottawa Citizen (February 17, 2002): B5.
Wharton, Tom. "Norwegian Pals Still Top Ski Contenders." Salt Lake Tribune (February 25, 2001): C6.
Clarey, Christopher. "Early American Promise Is Unfilfilled in Downhill." New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2003/02/09/sports/ (February 8, 2003).
Sketch by Michael Belfiore