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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Koss Breaks World Record, Wins Gold on Home Turf

HAMAR, Norway -- As Norway's Johann Olav Koss hurtled through the turns, keeping his body low and level, a nation's pulse throbbed with each foot that sliced through the ice.


Four-tenths of a second off the world-record mark after Lap 9. Two-tenths after 10. Six-hundredths of a second off the pace going into the final lap.


Then, finally, a world record. And the gold.


Koss, a medical student nursing a bad knee, gave the host country of Norway its first gold medal of the 1994 Winter Olympics with a world-record time of 6 minutes, 34.96 seconds in the 5,000-meter speed skating race, bettering his old mark of 6:35.53.


The Norwegian-dominated crowd cheered on its Olympic hero through the final three laps, and the 25-year-old star showed his appreciation by clenching his fist and bowing to crowd as he received his medal.


Koss beat his nearest competition, countryman Kjell Storelid, by nearly seven seconds. Storelid finished in 6:42.68. Koss did every lap under 32 seconds.


"This was great, the best thing that's ever happened to me," said Koss, who says his favorite hobby is riding tamed elk. "I was glad to do it in front of the home audience."


It was a touching scene at the Olympic Hall, a 10,000-seat capacity arena nicknamed the "Viking Ship" because of its hull-shaped roof and abnormal number of wooden beams.


The home fans did the wave, chanted "Johann" and waved tiny Norwegian flags as their tall, slenderly built compatriot broke his previous best, which he set on Dec. 4, 1993.


Koss, who had established the five previous world records in the race, was escorted to the winners' podium by a marching band and Norway's royal guard. One of the spectators was Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland. Another 200,000 Norwegians were on a ticket waiting list for the race.


"It was an honor to get this at home," said Koss. "I was not very confident before the race, but gained it as the race went along."


"Koss skated so fast, and when he is in shape, we can't beat him," said Rintje Ritsma of the Netherlands, who finished in third place with a time of 6:43.94.