2021-2022 winter sports preview

Will Norway’s dominance on snow continue?

Skier

Photo: Torstein Bøe / NTB
Sebastian Foss-Solevåg in the first run of slalom for men at the alpine world championships. He won slalom gold, the first Norwegian to do so since 1997.

MICHAEL KLEINER
Business & Sports Editor
The Norwegian American

For the last few years, Norwegian skiers have been like royalty, dominating almost every snow sport and showing great depth.

Because of COVID-19 travel restrictions, cross-country did not allow skiers to participate in cup events before 2021, so the skiers started at a deficit for cup points. Then, came the different world championships. Combining men’s and women’s cross-country, Nordic Combined, ski jumping, and biathlon, Norway collected 45 medals (20 gold, 14 silver, 11 bronze). At the 2018 Olympics, Norway had 39 medals across all sports.

The 2020-2021 seasons gets started for the Norwegians at Beitostølen, Nov. 19-21. World Cup season starts at Ruku, Finland, Nov. 26-28.

Women’s cross-country skiing

Men’s and women’s cross-country skiing combined for 18 medals (9-5-4) at the Nordic World Championships. Therese Johaug, the most dominant women’s cross-country skier the last three years, took four gold medals in 15-km skiathlon, 10-km freestyle, 4×5-km relay, and 30-km classical mass start, giving her 13 career golds in the championships, moving into third place among the winningest skiers in championship history. Johaug overtook Petter Northug, the only man to win four golds at multiple championships.

Given a full season, it’s hard to believe Johaug would have finished as low as ninth, 736 points behind American Jessie Diggins. Johaug is back at 33 years old with no indication of slowing down.

Maiken Caspersen Falla and Heidi Weng won silver at the world championships. Weng was 20th in the overall standings, seventh in distance. Helene Marie Fossesholm was 15th overall, ninth in distance.

winter sports

Photo: Anders Wiklund / TT / NTB
Norwegians Sturla Holm Lægreid (6) and Johannes Thingnes Bø (1) battle it out during the 12.5km pursuit in biathlon at the world championships in Östersund, Sweden.

Men’s cross-country skiing

The men won five of six gold medals at the worlds. There were two sweeps, in the individual sprint (Johannes Høsflot Klæbo, Erik Valnes and Håvard Solås Tagbøl) and 15-km individual freestyle (Hans Christer Holund, Simen Hegstad Krüger, Harald Østberg Amundsen). Klæbo and Valnes won the team sprint and Emil Iversen won the 50-km mass start, while Krüger had two silvers and a bronze. 

This shows the depth of the men’s team. It’s hard to believe Klæbo is only 25 years old, but he’s been winning for a long time. He managed to finish third in the cup standings, but 1,102 points behind his rival Alexander Bolshunov of Russia, who won the title. Six Norwegians finished in the top 21-Iversen (12), Holund (14), Krüger (16), Pål Golberg (19) and Sjur Røthe (21).

winter sports

Photo: Geir Olsen / NTB
Ski jumper Halvor Egner Granerud in the air at a competition in Bischofshofen, Austria, last January. He won the World Cup last season.

Men’s ski jumping

Halvor Egner Granerud flew on the scene in 2020-2021, only to contract coronavirus at the World Championships. He had made the deciding jump in the mixed HS106 that gave Norway the silver at the worlds, and finished fourth in the men’s HS106, 1.8 points behind bronze medalist Dawid Kubacki of Poland. Then, he got the COVID-19 test result.

Gramerud learned he had clinched the World Cup title with 1,544 points, 526 points ahead of Marcus Eichenbichler of Germany. Robert Johansson, who took silver in HS137 at the worlds, finished seventh in the World Cup table.

Women’s ski jumping

winter sports

Photo: Anders Wiklund / TT / NTB
Tiril Eckhoff took home the World Cup women’s biathlon trophy from ¨Östersund, Sweden.

Maren Lundby is a pioneer in women’s ski jumping. The World Cup champion from 2017-2020, Lundby had been among those advocating for women to jump from the HS137 large hill. The world championships were the first time it was held, and Lundby won the gold in the event. Remarkably, it was the first gold of the season for her. Lundby, who took silver in the HS106, finished seventh in the standings.

Someone who had a great season was Silje Opseth, who finished fourth in the World Cup standings, and joined Lundby, Anna Odine Strøm, and Thea Minyan Bjørseth to earn bronze in the team HS106 at the world championships.

Competition will come from Nika Kriznar of Slovenia, the World Cup champion, and Sara Takanashi (Japan), the runner-up.

Men’s Nordic combined

Jarl Magnus Riiber just turned 24 on Oct. 15 but already has a Hall of Fame career. In addition to three straight World Cup titles, Riiber has been on the podium in all 44 meets during that time, (38-5-1). That lone third place was back on March 16, 2019, in Schonach, Germany. 

Jens Lurås Oftebro was eighth in the cup table, Jørgen Gråbak was 12th, Espen Bjørnestad 13th, and Espen Andersen 16th. 

Competition will come from Vinzenz Geiger (2), Fabian Rießle (3), Eric Frenzel (5) of Germany and Akito Watabe (3) of Japan.

Women’s Nordic combined

Last season was the debut for women’s Nordic combined, but it was limited to one meet and the world championships. Norwegians are off to a good start. Gyda Westvold Hansen, 19, a cousin of Johaug, led a sweep at the worlds with sisters Mari Leinan Lund, second, and Marte Leinan Lund third.

Men’s biathlon

winter sports

Photo: Lise Åserud / NTB
Cross-country skiing champion Therese Johaug in action in Oberstdorf, Germany.

Sturla Holm Lægreid had a breakout season and gave teammate Johannes Thingnes Bø his toughest competition. The World Cup title came down to the last race, the 15-km mass start in Östersund, Sweden. Bø finished third, Lægreid eighth, giving Bø his third straight World Cup championship by just 13 points. It’s fortunate to have those two on the same team.

Another deep team, Tarjei Bø was fourth, Johannes Dale fifth, and Vetle Sjåstad Christiansen 13th. France’s Quentin Fillon Maillet was third.

Women’s biathlon

The women were strong, too. Tiril Eckhoff won her first World Cup championship with 12 World Cup victories, topping the Norwegian women’s season record of 11 held by Tora Berger, and equaling the overall Norwegian record held by Ole Einar Bjøndalen. Marte Olsbu Røiseland was second in the standings, Ingrid Landmark Tandrevold eighth.

Men’s alpine

It was a disappointing season for the men’s and women’s mountain skiers. A highlight for the men was Sebastian Foss-Solevåg winning his first gold in a world championship, the first slalom gold for a Norwegian since 1997. Veteran Henrik Kristoffersen took bronze. 

Another first was the team of Thea Louise Stjernesund, Foss-Solevåg, Kristina Riis-Johannessen and Fabian Wilkens Solheim taking gold in mixed team parallel. Kristoffersen was sixth in the cup standings, Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, who won the World Cup in 2019, injured his ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) in January, finished 11th, Foss-Solevåg 14th.

Women’s alpine

The emergence of Kajsa Vickhoff Lie was a positive, as she was 18th overall, seventh in Super G, and 11th in downhill. Ragnhild Mowinckel struggled in her return from injury.

winter sports

Photo: Terje Pedersen / NTB
Norway swept the podium in the first women’s Nordic Combined world championship. From left to right: Marte Leinan Lund, Gyda Westvold Hansen, and Mari Leinan Lund.

Women’s speedskating

Ragne Wiklund came out of nowhere when the then 20-year-old set a personal best in becoming world champion in the 1,500m, beating legendary skaters she had never come close to beating before. It will be interesting to see how she fares this season. Ida Njåtun has moved to the TV booth.

Men’s speedskating

Håvard Holmefjord Lorentzen finished seventh in the 1,000m and ninth in the 500m, while Hallgeir Engebråten was fourth and Sverre Lunde Pedersen sixth in the 1,500m.

This article originally appeared in the Nov. 19, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

Michael Kleiner

Michael Kleiner, business and sports editor, has more than three decades of experience as an award-winning journalist and public relations professional. He has operated his own PR and web design business for small businesses, authors and community organizations in Philadelphia since 1999. Not of Norwegian descent, he lived in Norway for a year with his family at age 11 and has returned as an adult. He is the author of a memoir, Beyond the Cold: An American’s Warm Portrait of Norway, and a member of the Norwegian American Chamber of Commerce Philadelphia. Visit Kleinerprweb.com; beyondthecold.com.

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