'The Flying Moustache' on face furniture, feeling empty, and nearly giving up before winning Olympic gold.

"A man without a moustache is a man without a soul," Confucius is believed to have said.

No worries for Norway's Robert Johansson then, who has plenty of soul and even more top-lip growth.

"I can't even remember what I look like without it," joked the Norwegian to FIS Ski in a recent interview.

The 'tache was beamed to millions across the globe at PyeongChang 2018 and hit headlines worldwide. Twitter swooned, and NBC Olympics crooned: "An ode to Robert Johansson's luscious mustache."

The moustache, the man, was even big in Japan.

More about that later. But first, here's a quick look at the pantheon of great Olympic moustaches Johansson had joined.

If Mount Olympus had a moustache...

Many remarkably-upholstered lips have graced the Games.

Swimming sensation Mark Spitz sported one of the finest ever.

Spitz’ performance in 1972 was a perfect 7/7 in world records and gold medals, a mark that not even Michael Phelps could match.

"When I went to the Olympics, I had every intention of shaving the moustache off, but I realised I was getting so many comments about it — and everybody was talking about it — that I decided to keep it," the American explained.

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Cyclist Ashton Lambie's isn't bad either. Like Johansson, the individual pursuit world record holder sports a fine handlebar.

Another level

But Johansson's facial furniture arguably goes one better.

Would he ever consider shaving it off?

He bristles at the thought.

"It has become a big and important part of me, I have had it for two years now."

"Everyday life is still the same, with training, resting and sleeping, but more people know me now and the interest is a lot higher."

In an age when recently-deceased Burt Reynolds' moustache has more than three thousand followers on Facebook, Norway's 'Flying Moustache' is instantly identifiable.

"The moustache makes it easy for the people to recognise me. They start talking to me in stores and I think it's nice that they recognise me also without the helmet and the goggles."

Darker times

But it hasn't been all smiles.

It feels fitting that Johansson should speak of darker times physically and mentally during Movember, the month that has become synonymous with facial hair and raising men's health awareness.

"Like two erect sentries, my moustache defends the entrance to my real self." That was what Salvador Dali said about his iconic mo.

Johansson too has had to guard against his own demons.

Close to the top of the game in 2012, a serious ankle injury left him without feeling in his foot. Mononucleosis and a lung infection followed and winter was suddenly over, and with it the ski jump season.

"This was a horrible winter, it was really tough. It's hard to be an athlete and have the feeling that you will not be able to achieve what you really want.

"It's terrible when you are thinking about giving up your big dream. I thought about it a lot and was close to giving up."

"During that period I was really down and felt totally empty."

An Olympic dream...

But the boy who was born in Lillehammer would not relent.

At the 1994 Olympics German ski jump great Jens Weissflog and Norwegian Espen Bredesen took gold medals in his back yard. Johansson was three.

He refused to give up on the boyhood dream of seeing his name written in the same sentence as theirs.

"That was the turning point."

"I realised that I have to make changes and I changed everything. The nutrition, the sleep, the training, the way of thinking, my entire life."

One man and his moustache.
One man and his moustache.

One of the iconic images of the PyeongChang Games was Johansson sitting still, a picture of calm, handlebar curls immaculately waxed, waiting to take that final jump to secure Norway team event gold.

It almost never happened.

After a disastrous 2016 World Cup performance in Planica, Slovenia, he called his father saying he wanted to retire from the sport.

His dad reminded him of the boy who showed no fear on the Pinnikbakken in Lillehammer when he started jumping at five years old. Johansson resolved to give it a go for one more season.

An Olympic spot wasn't guaranteed. After a poor showing in Zakopane, Poland, national team coach Alexander Stöckl and the other selectors had a dilemma.

Who should they choose for the final spot on the 2018 team: promising youngster Marius Lindvik or Johansson, whose form was up and down?

“It was a long discussion. It was pretty close,” Stöckl said at the time.

They settled on Johansson and the rest is history.

...Comes true

The 28-year-old finished on the podium in every event he entered.

He won bronze on the large hill individual jump, another bronze on the normal hill individual jump, and pulled off the crucial final jump to help Norway to team gold.

"In Korea, things felt right from the start.

"When I arrived in PyeongChang I knew I was in top shape. I travelled to the Olympics with a lot of self-confidence and I had the feeling that I could be successful there.

"It's incredible that I could take home three medals, such a result at my first Olympics."

"A childhood dream came true and then you are really proud of yourself."

New season, sky-high hopes

Norway's Olympic champion is living his dream, and hasn't lost any of his drive and desire despite Olympic success and moustache-shaped stardom.

"And today? Today it's a dream that I can do what I enjoy the most."

"I get a lot of positive feedback. It's nice when somebody wants to talk to me and asks me if I'm ready for the new season."

He is ready for the new season, one which launches with the World Cup in Wisla, Poland, from 16–18 November.

"I'm really glad that I can be a part of the Norwegian national team. We are a tight group. We are happy when another one of us is successful, that's what makes us strong."

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