Why Norway Will Never Forget This Ski Pole

If you’re from Norway and over 50, you most likely have a vivid recollection of this moment.

It is the 1982 world championships in Oslo. A man named Oddvar Bra is skiing the final segment of the men’s 4×10-kilometer cross-country relay. As he comes up a hill, he passes and sideswipes the only person ahead of him, Alexander Savyalov of the Soviet Union. But this move had a terrible consequence: his right pole had snapped in two. But someone in the crowd rushes forward and hands the skier a pole. Bra is able to battle Savyalov in a sprint to the finish line. The two men tied for first. This might not seem like that big of a deal. Bra was actually leading after he broke his pole because the contact between him and Savyalov had brought Savyalov to his knees. But in Norway, according to The New York Times, “Where were you when Oddvar Bra broke his pole?” is one of the most prominent questions asked. Most likely, if you are over 50-years-old, you know exactly where you were on Feb. 25, 1982, at about 1:54 p.m. It is part of the country’s shared identity and conveys a passion for cross-country skiing, which is an essential form of transportation for millenniums in the country. Now, in the Pyeongchang Games, Norway is a familiar position through the first days with more medals than any other country. It will probably produce another collection of Nordic skiing legends, but none will surpass Bra. The race runs on TV every year. Children have filmed YouTube tributes, and Bra, who is now 66, is regularly stopped. He has since worked as a coach and later in sales for Adidas. He is still an avid skier and fan. There is a statue of Bra that captures him in midstride in his hometown, Holonda. Every once in a while, someone comes and breaks the right pole.

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