Host City: Lillehammer, Norway
Date Started: February 13, 1994
Date Finished: February 13, 1994
Participants: 197 (117 men and 80 women) from 35 countries
Youngest Participant: Kristina Šmigun-Vähi (16 years, 356 days)
Oldest Participant: Maurilio De Zolt (43 years, 156 days)
Most Medals (Athlete): Manuela Di Centa (5 medals)
Most Medals (Country): Italy (9 medals)
The 1994 cross-country events were held at the Birkerbeineren Ski Stadium, the famous Nordic ski centre in Lillehammer, located in Lillehammer Olympiapark. There was only a slight change to the program. The men and women each skied the same five events and distances. But in Albertville, the longest distance individual races (30 km for women, 50 km for men) had been skied freestyle, and the other non-pursuit individual races skied classically. But in Lillehammer, the long-distances were changed to classical style, while the middle-distance races (15 km for women, 30 km for men), were changed to freestyle. The Fédération International de Ski (FIS) has since maintained a policy alternating the two longest individual distance races between classical and freestyle from one Winter Olympics to the next, while keeping the shortest distance classical, followed by a freestyle pursuit based on the results of the classical sprint.
The two dominant Norwegians from Albertville, Vegard Ulvang and Bjørn Dæhlie, were back. Ulvang was now slightly past his prime and he had lost a lot of training time in January when his brother was skiing home only to get lost in a blizzard and disappear. He was presumed dead but not found prior to Lillehammer. Ulvang skipped training and went off in search of him. His brother’s body was found in a lake a few months after the Lillehammer Olympics ended. Dæhlie was by now the best cross-country skier in the world and won four medals in Lillehammer, as he did in Albertville, and would repeat in Nagano. This included two gold in the 10 km and pursuit, and silvers in the 30 km and relay.
The men’s relay has been called “The Great Race,” and is considered one of the greatest competitions of any Winter Olympics. It was a battle between the home favorite Norwegians and the Italian team, and was contested over the home of cross-country, the Birkerbeineren Skistadion in front of 1,000s of rabid Norwegian fans cheering for their team. For all four legs, the Norwegians and Italians stayed within a ski’s length of each other, with the Finnish team staying close for three legs. In the end, to the disappointment of the Norwegian fans, Italy won on the final leg as Silvio Fauner beat Dæhlie to the line by 4/10ths of a second.