Johann Olav Koss

Johann Olav Koss
Personal information
Born (1968-10-29) 29 October 1968
Drammen, Norway
Height 1.89 m (6 ft 2 12 in)
Country Norway
Sport Speed skating
Turned pro 1986
Retired 1994
Achievements and titles
Personal best(s) 500 m: 37.98 (1994)
1000 m: 1:14.9 (1993)
1500 m: 1:51.29 (1994)
3000 m: 3:57.52 (1990)
5000 m: 6:34.96 (1994)
10 000 m: 13:30.55 (1994)

Johann Olav Koss, CM (born 29 October 1968) is a former speed skater from Norway. Koss is currently ranked as number 16 on the all time speed skating world cup medal table.[1] Johann Olav Koss resides in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


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.[2] 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.

in 2000, Koss founded 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. The organization operates in more than 20 countries reaching over one million children each week and is supported by more than 620 staff worldwide and over 14,900 volunteer Coaches.[3] In August 2015, Koss transitioned in to the role of Founder at Right To Play where he still stays very active in a variety of fundraising initiatives, and where he maintains his seat on the International Board of Directors.[3]

He married his second wife, Jennifer Lee, in New York on 23 May 2009. Lee's friend Chelsea Clinton was one of the bridesmaids.[4] Lee is a Harvard College, Oxford University and Harvard Business School graduate, and a former cellist who studied at The Juilliard School. She is the granddaughter of Kim Chung Yul,[5] the former Prime Minister of South Korea and Chief of the Korean Armed Forces during the Korean War. She is the Co-Founder of a retail business called BRIKA which sells products from under-the-radar artisans and makers.[6] She is a former management consultant and most recently a private equity investment professional at Ontario Teachers' Private Capital in Toronto. They have three children together, Aksel, Annabelle and Andreas.

In November 2009, after American Peter Mueller was stripped of his coaching role with Norway for an inappropriate comment to a female team member, Koss was appointed head coach, despite no previous coaching experience. Association sporting director Oystein Haugen told Reuters that Koss has been a revelation despite no previous coaching experience.[7]

Koss completed his Executive MBA at the Joseph L. Rotman School of Management in the University of Toronto in Canada. He has Honorary Doctorates from several universities - Brock University, University of Calgary, Vrije Universiteit Brussels, and the University of Aust Agder in Norway.[3] On 1 July 2015, Koss was made an honorary Member of the Order of Canada.[8]


An overview of medals won by Koss at important championships he participated in, listing the years in which he won each:

Championships Gold medal Silver medal Bronze medal
Winter Olympics 1992 (1,500 m)
1994 (1,500 m)
1994 (5,000 m)
1994 (10,000 m)
1992 (10,000 m)
World Allround 1990
1993 1992
World Cup 1990 (1,500 m)
1991 (1,500 m)
1991 (5,000 m / 10,000 m)
1994 (5,000 m / 10,000 m)
1992 (1,500 m)
1992 (5,000 m / 10,000 m)
1993 (5,000 m / 10,000 m)
1990 (5,000 m / 10,000 m)
European Allround 1991 1992
Norwegian Allround 1991
Norwegian Single Distance 1989 (1,500 m)
1989 (5,000 m)
1990 (1,500 m)
1990 (5,000 m)
1990 (10,000 m)
1991 (1,500 m)
1991 (5,000 m)
1991 (10,000 m)
1993 (1,000 m)
1993 (5,000 m)
1994 (1,500 m)
1989 (1,000 m)
1990 (1,000 m)
1992 (1,000 m)
1992 (5,000 m)
1988 (10,000 m)
1991 (1,000 m)
1992 (1,500 m)
1994 (5,000 m)
Norwegian Marathon 1988


World records

Over the course of his career, Koss skated ten world records:

3000 m3.57,5213 March 1990 Heerenveen
5000 m6.41,739 February 1991 Heerenveen
10,000 m13.43,5410 February 1991 Heerenveen
Big combination157.39610 February 1991 Heerenveen
5000 m6.38,7722 January 1993Heerenveen
5000 m6.36,5713 March 1993 Heerenveen
5000 m6.35,534 December 1993 Hamar
5000 m6.34,9613 February 1994 Hamar
1500 m1.51,2916 February 1994 Hamar
10,000 m13.30,5520 February 1994 Hamar


Personal records

To put these personal records in perspective, the WR column lists the official world records on the dates that Koss skated his personal records.

500 m37.987 January 1994Hamar35.92
1,000 m1:14.910 January 1993Hamar1:12.58
1,500 m1:51.2916 February 1994Hamar1:51.60
3,000 m3:57.5213 March 1990Heerenveen3:59.27
5,000 m6:34.9613 February 1994Hamar6:35.53
10,000 m13:30.5520 February 1994Hamar13:43.54
Big combination157.2579 January 1994Hamar156.882


Koss was number one on the Adelskalender, the all-time allround speed skating ranking, for a total of 1,998 days, divided over three periods between 1992 and 1997. He has an Adelskalender score of 155.099 points.

See also


Other sources

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Netherlands Leo Visser
Oscar Mathisen Award
Succeeded by
United States Bonnie Blair
Preceded by
Netherlands Falko Zandstra
Oscar Mathisen Award
Succeeded by
Germany Gunda Niemann
Preceded by
Spain Miguel Indurain
United Press International
Athlete of the Year

Succeeded by
United Kingdom Jonathan Edwards
Preceded by
Norway Atle Skårdal
Norwegian Sportsperson of the Year
Succeeded by
Norway Vegard Ulvang
Preceded by
Norway Norway national football team
Norwegian Sportsperson of the Year
Succeeded by
Norway Bjørn Dæhlie
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