By Nick Butler at the Main Press Centre in Sochi

Ole Einar Bjoerndalen has completed a wonderful 24 hours with election to the IOC Athletes Commission ©Getty ImagesFebruary 20 - Norway's record Winter Olympic medal winner Ole Einar Bjørndalen and Canadian ice hockey legend Hayley Wickenheiser have been elected to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Athletes' Commission, it has been announced here today.

In an illustrious career, biathlete Bjørndalen has won eight Olympic gold medals and 19 world titles and, just yesterday, became the most decorated Winter Olympian of all time in any sport after taking a 13th medal at the age of 40. 

Wickenheiser, meanwhile, is chasing a fourth successive Olympic ice hockey gold medal in the women's final this evening, and the 35-year-old also won silver at Nagano 1998 and participated in the Sydney 2000 Summer Games in softball.

Her appointment seems particularly poignant because she will replace a Canadian and an ice hockey player respectively in cross-country skier Rebecca Scott and Finland's Saku Koivu - who were each elected to the Athletes' Commission at the Turin Games in 2006 and have now served their eight-year terms - while Bjørndalen's election can be interpreted as a boost for Oslo's bid for the 2022 Olympics and Paralympics. 

Hayley Wickenheiser in action earlier this week against Switzerland...she is considered one of the greatest players of all time ©Getty ImagesHayley Wickenheiser in action earlier this week against Switzerland...she is considered one of the greatest players of all time ©Getty Images

After an election held over the past 21 days here in Sochi during which a record 80.87 per cent of athletes casted votes, Bjørndalen was elected with 1,087 votes, followed by Wickenheiser with 758.

"As one of the founding members of the IOC Athletes' Commission, I very much appreciate the high participation in the vote,"said IOC President Thomas Bach.

"It shows the value that athletes place on being part of the decision-making process and helping to shape the future of the Olympic Movement."

Claudia Bokel, the IOC Athletes' Commission chair who was re-elected to her post for four more years earlier this month, reacted similarly enthusiastically as she explained the importance of the Commission.

"The athletes are at the heart of the Olympic Games, and our Commission is their voice in all decisions taken by the IOC," she said. 

"During the Games, our Commission members listen to the athletes' concerns and opinions in all three Olympic Villages.

"We also aim to offer them the best support possible outside the Games, for instance when it comes to questions of career transition with tools like the Athlete Career Programme.

"I am sure that our two new colleagues will make an important contribution to our work."

Among those missing out were five other Olympic medal winners, Belarus's triple Sochi 2014 champion Darya Domracheva and Italy's Pietro Piller-Cottrer, Finland's Tanja Poutiainen, Switzerland's Didier Cuche and Czech Republic's Sarka Zahrobska.

Bjørndalen and Wickenheiser will be proposed to the IOC Session for membership on Sunday (February 23) and then, pending approval, they will be officially introduced at the Closing Ceremony of the Sochi Games later that day. 

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