LONDON (Reuters) - If Norway’s speedskating team did not already have their rivals on their guard then the sight of quadruple Olympic gold medalist Johann Olav Koss at the sidelines will give them an extra frisson of anxiety.
‘Koss the Boss’ stormed to three golds at his home Games in Lillehammer in 1994 and answered the call when American Peter Mueller was stripped of his coaching role with Norway last year for an inappropriate comment to a female team member.
“I said ‘If I can be of any help I’d like to give a hand,’” Koss told Reuters by telephone last week, prompting the Norwegian speedskating association to respond immediately.
“They replied ‘Oh that would be wonderful,’” Koss said.
Mueller was accused of sexual harassment and the association terminated the American’s contract despite the disruption to the team’s pre-Games build-up.
Association sporting director Oystein Haugen told Reuters that Koss has been a revelation despite no previous coaching experience.
“Johann has done a great job since he started in November. We’re looking forward to the Olympics,” he said.
Given that his contract ends at the end of March, Koss is intent on a fruitful stint.
“I want them all to have a great experience. That’s my goal, to make them feel relaxed and strong so they can do their best.
“It’s great to practice dealing directly as a coach and trying to get the best out of the athletes at the time of competition.”
Norway have a nine-member strong team including Havard Bokko, who Koss feels has “great potential” though he will have to contend with American Shani Davis and Dutchman Sven Kramer.
“You never know how other people will do, though I think for the two middle distances Davis is exceptionally strong and in the longer distances Kramer can also win medals,” Koss said.
“But if the Norwegian skaters come off the ice feeling they did their best then I’m satisfied.”
As the head of the Right to Play charity, Koss will also be required to perform other duties, something he has done tirelessly since giving his winnings to the Olympic Aid charity at the 1994 Games which sparked off a flood of 18 million dollars’ worth of other donations over 10 days.
Charity is not the only thing on the horizon for Koss however, who said he may yet have a role to play in helping future Norwegian skating talent.
“After the end of March I will work with the association to perfect their structure to try to help skaters of the future,” he said.
The search is on for the next ‘Koss the Boss’.
Editing by Miles Evans