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updated: 2/11/2014 6:15 AM


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Associated Press

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia -- It's approaching midnight on Monday, four hours after the Olympic men's 12.5-kilometer pursuit has ended.

A queue -- mainly journalists and volunteers -- is building to get on the cable car near the Laura biathlon stadium in the mountains above Sochi. Two men in track suits are coming closer. One of them, eating an apple, really looks a lot like Ole Einar Bjoerndalen.

Hold on. He IS Ole Einar Bjoerndalen.

The most decorated biathlete of all time has placed fourth this evening, just missing out on a record 13th Winter Games medal. Three targets missed, one too many to get on the podium. "To be in fourth place is OK today, I feel good about that," Bjoerndalen has said after the race. "I feel really good on the shooting range right at the moment. But you need to find a balance, and today I was really offensive and trying to do what I want."

While Bjoerndalen waits, Norway team spokesman Halvor Lea passes the queue, briefly talks to the volunteer at the entrance of the cable car, and then waves Bjoerndalen through. The pair gets onto the first gondola. Two journalists who have been waiting at the front of the queue want to get on it as well, but Lea, with an apologetic smile, says 'no' and asks them to take the next gondola. This one is Ole only.

That's atypical. Norwegians, famous for being egalitarian, even have an unofficial law called Janteloven, aimed at bringing people down to size. When gas prices went through the roof in the 1970s, the King of Norway once went cross-country skiing by riding the tram with the common folks up to the hills above Oslo. Surely, if the king could do it, Bjoerndalen could have offered a ride, too.

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