Famous Norwegian athletes: A list of the all-time greats

While Norway’s total landmass is relatively large, its population is modest at around 5.37 million. Despite this, Norway has fostered several world-class athletes.

While a majority of Norway’s sports heroes were dominant in winter sports, some were able to reach the top of sports that are practiced all around the globe.

In this article, we take a look at the 10 greatest Norwegian athletes of all time and their accomplishments during their careers.

Ole Gunnar Solskjær

Ole Gunnar Solskjær is perhaps the most famous Norwegian footballer of all time. After enjoying success in the Norwegian league, he was signed by Manchester United in 1996.

Here he made a name for himself as a deadly striker with a cunning ability to close out tight matches, often coming in as a substitute in the later phase parts of the match,

Combined with his non-threatening, youthful appearance, this earned him the nickname “the baby-faced assassin”.

His most influential moment came in the 1999 Champions league final (Football/Soccer Superbowl) when he scored the game-winner in overtime against the German team Bayern Munich.

After spending 11 years with Manchester United, he retired in 2007 to pursue a career in coaching. After spending time in Manchester’s youth academy and several other clubs, he was signed as head coach of Manchester united in 2018.

Magnus Carlsen

Carlsen is one of the best chess grandmasters of all time. He is the current World Chess Champion and is ranked the number 1 chess player in the world. At the age of 30, he only trails Garry Kasparov in time spent as the highest-rated player.

Carlsen showed an aptitude for intellectual challenges at a young age. After developing an interest in chess, he made a name for himself even before graduating high school.

He finished first in the C group of the Corus chess tournament shortly after he turned 13, and earned the title of grandmaster a few months later. At age 15, he won the Norwegian Chess Championship, and at 17.

He reached number one in the FIDE world rankings aged 19, becoming the youngest person ever to do so, and in 2013 Carlsen became World Chess Champion by defeating Viswanathan Anand.

Ole Einar Bjørndalen

Ole Einar Bjørndalen is the most successful Biathlete of all time and one of the most decorated Olympians of all time with a total of 13 medals.

Besides winning championship medals, Bjørndalens’s career becomes even more impressive when you consider the length of his career and that his first and last Olympic gold came 16 years apart.

This has led to Bjørndalen being referred to as the “king of biathlon”. Despite being a minor sport on the world stage, this is certainly impressive in a sport that relies on both skill and endurance.

Marit Bjørgen

Marit Bjørgen is a former cross-country skier. She is the greatest female Olympian of all time and ranked first all-time among female cross skiers.

Bjørgen grew up in Trøndelag and participated in several sports in her youth. She excelled in cross-country skiing and was selected to represent Norway in the world championships at the age of 21 and the salt lake city Olympics the following year.

While she was unable to secure any medals in these championships, she showed great potential and would go on to become the most accomplished female cross-country skier of all time.

Over the course of her career, she participated in 5 Olympic games and secured 8 gold medals. She also competed in 8 world championships, winning a total of 18 gold medals. As an all-around skier, she also won the overall world cup a total of 4 times.

After an 18-year career, Bjørgen announced her retirement from competitive skiing in 2018 at the age of 38.

Bjørn Dæhlie

Bjørn daæhlie is the most successful male cross-country skier of all time. Over his 10-year career, Dæhlie won a total of 29 medals in the winter Olympics and world championships.

Dæhlie was born in Elverum, in south-central Norway, but later moved to Nannestad, north of Oslo. Dæhlie attributes much of his success to his active childhood where he participated in hunting, fishing, hiking, kayaking, football, and, of course, skiing.

Dæhlie did not achieve immediate success after turning professional in 1988 but gradually improved over the years. His breakthrough came after an unexpected gold medal in the 1991 world championships which would jump-start His decade of dominance in the sport.

Dæhlie would go on to win 8 Olympic gold medals and 9 world championships before retiring in 1999. After his retirement, Dæhlie would go on to become a successful businessman in sports attire and real estate.

Kjetil Andre Aamodt

Kjetil Andre Aamodt is one of the best all-around alpine skiers of all time and the most decorated alpine skier in the Olympics with a total of 8 medals from 5 Olympic games.

Aamodt grew up in Oslo and was trained by his father from an early age. The hard work paid off as Aaamodt Turned professional at the age of 18 in the 1990 world cup season.

After winning a surprising gold medal in the 1992 Albertville Olympics, Aamodt had one of his greatest seasons in 1993, winning 2 world championship gold medals and finishing second overall in the world cup at the age of 21.

The following year, he was unable to win the overall world cup title, the only one of his career. Aamodt’s most successful Olympic game was the 2002 Salt lake city Olympics in which he was able to secure 2 gold medals.

In the final year of his career, Aamodt was able to secure his last gold medal in the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics. He would announce his retirement live on television in 2007 after winning the award for the best male athlete and the honorary award at the Norwegian sports gala.

Karsten Warholm

Karsten Warholm burst onto the track and field scene in 2017 when he became the world champion in the 400-meter hurdles in London. 

Hailing from Ulsteinvik in western Norway, Warholm was a talented track and field athlete growing up. He competed in several events, including octathlon and decathlon.

Eventually, Warholm found his discipline as a hurdler after enjoying success in the 2016 season where he was 6th in the European championships and 10th in the 2016 Rio Olympics final.

The very next year, Warholm Secured in first world champion title, a feat he repeated two years later in Doha. 

His biggest achievement so far came in the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 where he became Olympic champion in a race that also saw him break the 29-year-old world record in 400 meters hurdles.

At just 25 years of age, Warholm is poised to enjoy a long and successful career, but his achievements so far are impressive enough to land him a spot among Norway’s greatest of all time.

Casper Ruud

Casper Ruud is the best Norwegian tennis player of all time. At age 22, Ruud was able to be ranked among the top 10 tennis players for the 2021 season. Surpassing his father as the highest-ranked Norwegian tennis player of all time.

Growing up in Oslo, Casper was coached by his father, Norwegian previously the best-ranked tennis player of all time. Ruud showed great promise as a junior and gradually climbed in the rankings.

After an impressive 2016 season that saw Ruud climb to 133 in the world rankings, he was able to debut in the majors in 2018. While he only saw a modest climb in the rankings, he improved his skills and was able to reach his first ATP tour final in 2019 at the U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championships.

The following year, Ruud was able to secure his first ATP title, winning the 2020 Argentina Open where he defeated Pedro Sousa in the final. Two weeks after his first title Ruud reached his second final in a month at the 2020 Chile Open.

Ruud only continued to improve in 2021, winning 5 titles and reaching 2 masters 1000 semifinals which saw him climb into the top 10 best-ranked players in the world. 

While he has yet to win any of the major tennis tournaments, he is already ranked as one of the best athletes in a global sport. At just 22 years of age, Ruud has the potential to become one of Norway’s greatest athletes of all time.

Thor Hushovd

Thor Hushovd is the greatest Norwegian cyclist of all time. After having success as a junior, Hushovd turned professional in 1998 when he was signed to the French professional team Credit Agricole. 

Hushovd rode his first Tour de France in 2001 and got his first stage win in the prestigious race the following year.

Hushovd’s most successful years were from 2006 to 2012 during which he managed to secure a stage win in every Tour de France race between 2006 to 2011. He also carried the yellow leader’s jersey for 3 days in  2006  and won the overall points classification in 2006 and 2009.

Hushovd’s career highlight came in 2010 when he became the world champion on a sprint finish in Melbourne, Australia.

Olaf Tufte

As a seven-time Olympian, and twice Olympic champion, and twice the world champion in the single sculler, Olaf Tufte is the greatest Norwegian rower of all time and one of the greatest in the world.

Tufte grew up on the family farm just outside Horten in Vestfold county. He started rowing at the age of 17 and excelled rapidly. 

After having success in the men’s double scull with partner Fredrik Bekken, Tufte transitioned to the single scull and became the world champion in 2001. 

He defended his title in Milan 2 years later and would go on to become Olympic champion in 2004. Tufte defended his Olympic title in Beijing in 2008, but his form waned in the years following. 

After finishing outside the podium in 2 consecutive world championships, he failed to reach the final in the 2012 London Olympics.

After a year off and gradually working himself back to form, Tufte found success in the double scull with teammate Kjetil Borch. The pair managed to secure a Bronze in the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Refusing to put down the oars, Tufte moved back into the quad scull where his career had started. He secured a seat as stroke of the Norwegian quad which qualified for the 2020 Beijing Olympics, enabling Tufte to compete in his 7th Olympic games.

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Erik is the creator and editor of Planet Norway. Born in Trondheim and currently living in Oslo, Erik knows the ins and outs of Norwegian History, society, and culture. His idea for starting planet Norway came about when helping his foreign fiance to settle in Norway.