"It is cherry brandy from my father's garden," he said. "I have been saving it for a special occasion."
Toasts were offered. Everyone drank. Like the other members of the Norwegian team who have stepped forward—Lund-berg; Thomas Alsgaard, the surprise winner of the 30-kilometer cross-country race; Johann Olav Koss, the triple gold medal winner in speed skating; and Ulvang, who read the Olympic oath at the opening cermonies—Dæhlie has an old-time quality, a sense that he is more like the athletic heroes of the past than like those of the present and certainly the future. More normal. More tied to the real world.
Koss, after his speed skating win in the 1,500, announced that he was giving his 225,000-krone bonus (approximately $30,000) to Olympic Aid, a charity, and he asked each Norwegian to contribute 10 kroner for each gold medal won by the country's athletes in these Games. Ulvang, Norway's top athletic hero, broke down at a press conference when asked by a reporter from Baltimore about the disappearance of his brother, who vanished while running during a snowstorm four months ago. The question became a national scandal. How could anyone ask something so insensitive? The newspaper Dagbladet of Oslo printed a telephone number for readers to call the paper and express their outrage. More than 10,000 people called in a day.
"We like our heroes to be part of us, not somewhere above us," Dagbladet sports editor Esten Saether said. "We treat them as our neighbors. You take a sport like skiing: Everyone in the country has skied. Someone like Dæhlie is no different from anyone else. We ski. He skis. He is like a boy in some ways, happy all the time. We had never seen him cry before today. That was a surprise, that he cried."
Dæhlie, 26, will not become fabulously wealthy from his success. He will become—perhaps already is—a millionaire. but the million will be measured in kroner, and there are slightly more than seven kroner to a U.S. dollar. Dæhlie has already built a large house in Nannestad, 20 kilometers north of Oslo. He drives a Volvo. He lives with his girlfriend. Normal. His father is a teacher. His mother too is a teacher. Normal.
A reporter at the press conference stood at a microphone and asked about the brandy Dæhlie's father had made. Did Dæhlie have the recipe? Dæhlie replied that he couldn't give the recipe, that maybe it contained ingredients that might not help athletic training. The reporter suggested maybe one of the ingredients was Smirnov, This was a joke, playing on the name of the silver medalist in the 10-kilometer race and the vodka Smirnoff. Dæhlie did not get the joke for 30 seconds. Finally he laughed. "I must have worn myself out in that race," he said. "I'm not thinking too fast."
The medal ceremony was held at seven o'clock in the cold at the foot of the Olympic ski jump. More Norwegian flags. More renditions of the "We won the gold" song.
Afterward Dæhlie rushed into town for the 8 p.m. start of the television show, in a studio in a renovated bank near the Lillehammer train station. One of the other guests was International Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio Samaranch, but Dæhlie clearly was the prime attraction.
A video clip of his mother was shown. She told a story about how Bjørn had adopted 50 small roosters when he was 15 years old, planning to raise and sell them. The roosters started to grow, and soon they were crowing, not exactly in unison, every morning at sunrise. The neighbors complained. The roosters were given away.