Martin Stokken was born on a desolate farm named Snegldal in the municipality of Snillfjord west of Trondheim, with the family’s nearest neighbours was located one hour’s walking distance away. He grew up under very poor conditions as the youngest of four siblings. In 1934 tragedy struck the family, as the farm burned down together with 1,000 acres of forest, and his father died shortly thereafter, on Martin’s 13th birthdate. After finishing school he worked as a shepherd, and after some time he could afford to buy himself a pair of skis. He showed talent as a cross-country skier, and when he and his mother went to Fåvang in the Gudbrandsdalen valley to find work when he was 16, he became member of the local ski club and started to participate in local competitions. But then the war broke out, and in 1943 Stokken fled to Sweden and joined the Norwegian resistance movement. Returning to Norway in 1945, he entered a 5,000 m race at Trondheim on 15 September, and came second in his first ever track competition, only beaten by the Norwegian record holder Odd Rasdal. In 1946 he won his first national title when he was Norwegian Champion in cross-country running, and he was selected for the European Athletic Championship in Oslo the same year, where he finished eighth in the 5K. He would eventually win 24 national championships titles, 19 in track and field athletics and 5 in cross-country skiing. From 1947-51 he was unbeaten in the 5 and 10K at the national level. In the London Olympics 1948 he placed fourth in the 10,000, and in 1949 he became the fourth man in the world to better 30 minutes for the distance. In 1950 he placed fourth on the steeplechase at the European championships in Brussels.
At the first half of his career he used cross-country skiing mostly as training for the athletic season, but from 1951 he started to compete more seriously, winning his first national championship title in cross-country skiing in the 30 km. He was selected for the Olympic Winter Games in Oslo 1952, and earned a silver medal as a member of the relay team. Later that year he went to the Helsinki Olympics where he placed 10th in the 10K. He continued to compete in running until 1955, achieving personal bests in the 5,000 in his final athletic year with 14:13.8. In cross-country skiing he won the Holmenkollen 50 km in 1954 after a close duel with the great Sixten Jernberg. He skied all cross-country events in the 1956 games, placing sixth at the 15 km as his best result, but he was not able to finish his favorite distance, the 50 km. In 1957 we won his last national championship, in the 30 km race in Mo i Rana. He ended his career by winning the Birkebeiner race from Rena to Lillehammer in 1960. He later became a coach in cross-country skiing and biathlon, combined with his full-time job as police officer in Trondheim from 1950-80. He died in 1985, aged only 61.
Martin Stokken was definitely one of the greatest sports heroes in Norway in the years after World War II. He was awarded the Egeberg Ærespris in 1949 and the Holmenkollen Medal in 1954.
Personal Bests: 5000 – 14:13.8 (1955); 10000 – 29:54.0 (1952).