In 1986 the IOC voted to change the schedule of the Olympic Games so that the Summer and Winter Games would be held in different years, increasing the profile of each event and the Olympic Movement in general. As a result, two years after the 1992 Winter Games, the Winter Olympics again took place, this time in Lillehammer, Norway. A record 80 nations participated. It was also the Games where Australia won its first Winter Olympic medal, a bronze, in short track speed skating.
The 1994 Games were extremely well organised and the Norwegians’ love of winter sports added a refreshing purity of spirit. It also helped that Norway’s athletes excelled, winning 10 gold medals to trail only Russia (11 gold) on the medal table. Norway’s tally of 26 medals overall was the best of any nation.
Norway’s brightest star was speed skater Johan Olav Koss. He won three gold medals, setting a new world record with each of his wins – the 1500m, 5000m and 10,000m. In the 10,000m, he gave a great individual performances in Games history to win by a staggering 18.70 seconds. Read more>>>
Australia at these Games
Lillehammer is remembered as the Games in which Australia celebrated its first Winter Olympic medal. It was the men’s short track speed skating relay team of Steven Bradbury, Richard Nizielski, Andrew Murtha and Kieran Hansen who raced to the elusive medal, winning bronze in their event. Reserve John Kah was also part of the team, but did not receive a medal. It ended Australia’s 58-year drought of Winter Games involvement without a medal.
A team of 27 athletes, 20 men and seven women, represented Australia in Lillehammer. Australia’s expanding skills and interests in winter sports were demonstrated by the spread of competitors across sports and events. Athletes competed in alpine skiing, biathlon, bobsleigh, cross-country skiing, figure skating, luge, speed skating, short track speed skating and freestyle skiing, including the new events in aerial skiing. As well as the athletes, leading the 23 officials in support was Geoff Henke, who was Chef de Mission of the team for the sixth consecutive time.
Aerial skier Kirstie Marshall, one of the premier freestyle skiers in the world, carried the Australian flag in the Opening Ceremony, becoming the first woman to have the honour to do so. She also carried the flag in the Closing Ceremony, and remains the only Australian to carry the flag in both ceremonies at an Olympics. Marshall placed sixth in her event, matching the result of speed skater Colin Coates in the men’s 10,000m in 1976, which was to that time the best result ever by an individual Australian at the Games. Two days later, the short track relay team reached the podium.
The Australian team enjoyed three other top-ten placings in a breakthrough Games. Biathlete Kerryn Rim finished eighth in the women’s 15km event; and Steven Bradbury and Richard Nizielski placed 8th and 10th respectively in the 500m short track. Other strong results came from short track skater Karen Kah, figure skaters Danielle and Stephen Carr, and alpine skier Zali Steggall.
The outstanding results proved a reward for the AOC and other sports officials who had worked hard to establish a training centre for Australia’s winter athletes in Axams, Austria, in 1993. It was set up near the home town of Sigi Haberzettl, the Austrian who had coached at Falls Creek and was instrumental in the development of skiers such as the Milne brothers and Steven Lee. The Australians and Austrians made an agreement to host reciprocal training arrangements, the Austrians helping the Australians with their winter preparations and the Australians helping the Austrians in the Summer Games sports of rowing, canoe/kayak and cycling.