Johann Olav Koss

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Johann Olav Koss (born 29 October 1968) is a former speed skater from Norway, considered to be one of the best in history, and current assistant coach of Norway's speed skating team.



[[File:|thumb|Johann Olav Koss (2007)]]

Johann Olav Koss was born in Drammen, Buskerud County, Norway. Johann Olav Koss became the Norwegian Junior Champion in 1987, but he could not compete with the world top skaters in the 1986 and 1987 World Junior Championships. In 1988, he debuted with the seniors at the World Championships in Alma-Ata, but failed to qualify for the final distance. The following year, he finished eighth in the same tournament (after a fifteenth place in the European Allround Championships), placing second on the 1,500 m. His breakthrough came in 1990, winning the World Allround Championships in Innsbruck, Austria. The following four years, he would win two more world titles (1991 and 1994), while finishing second in 1993 and third in 1992. He won the European Allround Championships in 1991 and finished second in the next three editions. Koss had a total of twenty-three World Cup wins, while winning four overall World Cup titles (the 1,500 m in 1990 and 1991, and the combined 5,000/10,000 m in 1991 and 1994).

Koss made his Olympic debut at the 1992 Winter Olympics, finishing seventh on the 5,000 m, five days after undergoing surgery because of an inflamed pancreas. He would recover to win gold on the 1,500 m (by only 0.04 seconds over his countryman Ådne Søndrål) and silver on the 10,000 m (behind Dutch skater Bart Veldkamp).

In 1994, the final year of his speed skating career, Koss also gained fame outside the speed skating world by winning three gold medals at the 1994 Winter Olympics in his native Norway, winning all races in new world records, two of which would remain unbeaten until the clap skate era. For his performance, he was named Sports Illustrated magazine's Sportsman of the Year in 1994, together with Bonnie Blair. In addition, he received the Oscar Mathisen Award three times: in 1990, 1991, and 1994.

After his speed skating career, Koss trained as a physician at the University of Queensland in Australia[1]. He became a UNICEF ambassador and a member of the International Olympic Committee (until 2002). He married Canadian businessperson and politician Belinda Stronach on 31 December 1999, but they divorced in 2003. Koss is now the CEO of the Canadian based International Humanitarian Organisation, Right To Play, which uses sport and play as a tool for the development of children and youth in the most disadvantaged areas of the world. From his adopted home in Toronto, Canada, Koss directs seven regional Right To Play offices in Europe and North America with 64 paid staff and 90 volunteers. [2]

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