Another treasure trove for Norway?

The winters sports season is upon us

ski jumping

Photo: Geir Olsen / NTB
Anna Odine Strøm, shown jumping in the Raw Air World Cup at Holmenkollen in Oslon, March 12, finished fourth in the overall World Cup standings last season.

Michael Kleiner
Business & Sports Editor
The Norwegian American

The skis are waxed, the skate blades sharpened, athletes trained, venues prepared. The winter sports season is underway. Some things are the same, some aren’t:

The Russians still aren’t coming. The International Ski and Snowboard Federation (FIS) announced on Oct. 25, “The current FIS policy, which does not allow the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials at FIS events, will remain in effect until further notice,” because of the war in Ukraine.

Men’s cross-country star Johannes Høsflot Klæbo was involved in two disputes with the Norwegian Skiing Association, one over a representation agreement. Without a contract he could not participate in the World Cup. On Nov. 7, NTB reported that Klæbo agreed to a standard one-year contract that allows him to compete. Klæbo, alpiners Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, Lucas Braathen, and others were challenging the association’s use of their images in violation of their image rights.

It was then announced that Klaebo and women’s cross-country star Tiril Udnes Weng had contracted COVID.

In March 2020, Minneapolis was to host the first cross-country World Cup in the United States in 19 years, but the week before, the sports world shut down because of COVID. Minneapolis is getting another chance Feb. 17-18.

Biathlon is coming to Soldier Hollow, Utah, March 8-10.

FIS has instituted a ban on fluoride when cleaning skis, a year after banning fluorine. This is to protect competitors from the hazards of fluoride.

Will Norway still control the medals? Combined from all their world championships last season, Norway collected an amazing 60 medals (24-20-16) over 19 disciplines. There were 14 World Cup champions (topped the standings). Here’s a look at Norwegians and their top competitors.

biathlon

Photo: Javad Parsa / NTB
Biathlete Johannes Thingnes Bø leads the pack in the 15km Mass Start at last season’s world championships, where he collected seven medals. Bø leads our coverage of the upcoming winter sports season.

MEN’S ALPINE

Top Norwegians: Alexander Aamodt Kilde, 31, (2nd in 2022-23 World Cup standings  #1Downhill; #2Super-G); Henrik Kristoffersen, 29, (#2Slalom; #2Giant Slalom); Lucas Braathen, 23. (#1Slalom).

Top Competitors: Giant Slalom: WC Champ Marco Odermatt, (Switzerland), 26, (#1) Marco Schwarz (Austria), 28 (#4); Loïc Meillard (Switzerland), 27, (#5); Alexis Pintauralt (France), 32, (#6); Super-G: Odermatt (#1); Vincent Kreichmayr (Austria), 32, (#3); Pintauralt (#4) Downhill: Kreichmayr (#2); Odermatt (#3); Schwarz (#4); Combined: Pintauralt (#1); Schwarz (#2).

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Notes: Norway (5), Switzerland (5), Austria (4), and France (4) dominated the top 21 of the overall standings, taking 18 spots. Odermatt won WC by 1,052 points. Over the last three years, Norway has secured 30 podiums in SG and DH, the speed races. Last year, Kilde had 13 podiums, medaling in each World Cup event—six gold. In the downhill. Braathen had seven podiums, three gold.

 

WOMEN’S ALPINE

Top Norwegians: Ragnhild Mowinckel, 31, (#3SG;); Kajsa Vickhoff Lie, 25, (first Norwegian woman to both win a WC DH event and medal at a world championships in a speed discipline since 1993); Thea Louise Stjernesund, 26, (#3Parallel)

Top Competitors: Mikaela Shiffrin (United States), 28, (WC Champ); Slalom: Shiffrin (#1); Petra Vlhova (Slovakia), 28, (#2); Wendy Holdener (Switzerland), 30, (#3); Giant Slalom: Shiffrin (#1); Lara Gut-Bahrami (Switzerland), 32, (#2); Marta Bassino (Italy), 27, (#3); Vlhova (#4); Federica Brignone (Italy), 33, (#5); Super-G: Gut-Bahrami (#1); Brignone (#2); Elena Curtoni (Italy), 32, (#4); Combined: Brignone (#1): Holdener (#2); Downhill: Sofia Goggia (Italy), 30, (#1); Curtoni (#4); Gut-Bahrami (#6); Parallel: Holdener (#2)

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Notes: Lie’s medals were her only podiums of the season and just the third of her career. Shiffrin also won WC in 2022, 2019, 2018, 2017 (at 21), was 2nd in 2020 to Brignone, and was third in 2021 behind Vlhova and Gut-Bahrami. Vlhova was second in 2022 and 2019, third in 2020 and is the only member of the Slovakian women’s alpine team.

 

MEN’S CROSS-COUNTRY

Top Norwegians: Johannes Høsflot Klæbo, 27, (WC Champ; #1Sprint; #2Distance); Pål Golberg, 33, (#1D; Simen Hegstad Krüger, 30, (#4D); Didrik Tønseth, 32, (#3D); Hans Christer Holund, 34, (#5D); Erik Valnes, 27, (#8S); Even Northug, 28, (#3S).

Top Competitors: Federico Pellegrino (Italy), 33, (#4S); Richard Jouve (France), 29, (#6S); Lucas Chanavat (France), 28, (#2S)

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Notes: Norway had five skiers in the top six, six in the top 10 of the standings. Klæbo won the WC in 2018, 2019, 2022, 2023 and  his lowest finish was 4th in 2017. At the World Championships, he has 80 career podiums in seven seasons, 22 in 2022-2023, when he stood on the middle pedestal 19 times. At the World Championships, Norway won all six events, plus four silver, two bronze, 12 total, most by a country at any of the world championships. Of a possible 18 podium spots, Norway had 12–two of the golds were relays. Six individuals received medals: Klæbo (5), Golberg (4), Krüger (3), Holund (2), Sjur Røthe, 35, and Harald Østberg Amundsen, 25,  (1). Will age affect them? Six are 30 or older. The United States’ Ben Ogden, 23, who was eighth in the WC standings, was U23 Rookie of the Year.

 

WOMEN’S CROSS-COUNTRY

Top Norwegians: Heidi Weng, 32, (#4D); twin sisters Tirl Udnes Weng (#1 WC Champ; #3D, S), 27, and Lotte Udnes Weng, 27 (#9S); Anne Kjersti Kalvå, 31, (#5D)

Top Competitors: Jessie Diggins (United States), 32, (2nd WC, #2D); Kerttu Niskanen (Finland), 35, (#1D); Rosie Brennan (United States), 34, (#6D); Nadine Fähndrich (Switzerland), 28, (#2S); Frida Karlsson (Sweden), 24, (#8D); Maja Dahlqvist (Sweden), 29, (#1S); Johanna Hagström (Sweden), 25, (#4S); Jonna Sundling (Sweden), 28, (#5S); Julia Kern (United States), 26, (#7S); Ebba Andersson (Sweden), 26, (#9D).

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thingnes bø medal

Photo: Javad Parsa / NTB
Johannes Thingnes Bø with his treasures: five gold, a silver, and bronze from the biathlon world championships.

Notes: Norway only had three medals at the world championships last season. Heidi won the World Cup in 2018, second to Therese Johaug in 2020. Sweden is loaded. Andersson was third overall in 2021 and 2022, Karlsson was 22 when she beat Johaug. Diggins gets consistent with age. She won the WC in 2021, second in 2022 and 2023. Brennan has quietly rose up the rankings. She was also fourth in 2021 after finishing 17th in 2020.

 

MEN’S BIATHLON

Top Norwegians: Johannes Thingnes Bø, 30, (WC Champ; #1 Sprint, Pursuit; #2 Mass Start; #7 Individual); Sturla Holm Lægrid, 26, (#2S, P; #3MS); Vetle Sjåstad Christiansen, 31, (#5S; #6P); Tarjei Bø, 35, (#4P; #6S; #7MS); Johannes Dale, 26, (#4MS)

Top Competitors: Benedikt Doll (Germany), 33, (#4S; #7P); Martin Ponsiluoma (Sweden), 28, (#3I, S; #8 P); Quentin Fillon Maillet (France), 31, (#3P; #8S); Roman Rees (Germany), 30, (#4I; #7S); Fabien Claude (France), 28, (#5P; #6MS).

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Notes: Norway has depth, sweeping the top three spots in last year’s standings and five of the top seven. Johannes Thingnes Bø is remarkable. At the World Championships in February, he collected five gold medals, then won two gold at Holmenkollen. He finished the season with eight straight sprint wins, was 14-1 in individual events, and set a record with 19 wins in a season. Bø has 8 Olympic medals, five gold; 31 World Championship medals, 17 gold; 133 World Cup podiums, 89 gold; 9 Discipline Globes and 4 Total Score Globes since debuting in 2013. He has won four of the last five World Cup seasons. The top competition are his teammates. Lægrid has been second three straight years and had a phenomenal first full season in 2020-2021 finishing first in Individual and Pursuit, #2 in Sprint, #4 in Mass Start. Christiansen went from 4th in 2021-2022 to 3rd last season.

 

WOMEN’S BIATHLON

Top Norwegians: Ingrid Landmark Tandrevold, 27, (#4I, #6P); Karoline O. Knotten, 28, (#12I)

Top Competitors: Julia Simon (France), 27, WC  Champ; #1P, MS #2I; #3S; Dorothea Wierer (Italy), 33, (#2S; #3P; #4MS; #5I); Lisa Vittozzi (Italy), 28, (#4P); Elvira Öberg (dSweden), 24, (#2P; #4S); Hanna Öberg (Sweden), 28, (#3I, MS); Markéta Davidová (Czech Republic), 26, (#5S; #7P); Lisa Theresa Hauser (Austria), 29, (#6 MS; #7S); Lou Jeanmonnot (France), 25, (#5 MS; #6I)

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Notes: Marte Olsbu Røiseland, 32, won the World Cup in 2021-22 and was second in 2020-21. Tiril Eckhoff, 33, with 10 world championships, 65 World Cup podiums, and 8 Olympic medals. Røiseland and Eckhoff both sat out the beginning of last season. After 2020-2021, Røsieland returned and managed to finish 15th. She, Eckhoff, and Germany’s Denise Herrmann-Wick, 34, who was 4th in the WC last year, and the best sprinter, have retired. Røiseland earned 17 World Championship medals, 13 gold, 57 World Cup podiums, 28 gold, and 7 Olympic medals. Herrmann-Wick has nine World Championship medals, two gold; 34 WC podiums, 14 gold. This will have a big effect on Norway, as there is a big drop after Tandrevold, who has 8 World Championship medals, four gold, 33 World Cup podiums, 15 gold.

 

MEN’S NORDIC COMBINED

Top Norwegians: Jarl Magnus Riiber, 26, (#3 Jump); Jens Lurås Oftebro, 23, (#1Time; #6J); Jørgen Grabaak, 32, (#10T)

Top Competitors: Johannes Lamparter (Austria), 22, (WC Champ) #4J; #7T); Best Jumpers: Ryota Yamamoto (Japan), 26, (#1); Franz-Josef Rehrl (Austria), 30, (#2); Julian Schmid (Germany), 24, (#5); Kristjan Ilves (Estonia), 27 (#7); Laurent Muhlethaler (France), 26, (#9J); Best Times: Vinzenz Geiger (Germany), 26, (#2); Fabian Rießle (Germany), 32 (#3); Ilkka Herola (Finland), 28 (#4); Eero Hirvonen (Finland), 27, (#5)

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Notes: Riiber didn’t participate in every event last season, so he fell to fourth after wining the World Cup for four straight years. At the World Championships, though, he collected four golds in two individual events, team relay and mixed team relay. Riiber added two golds at Holmenkollen—where he’s undefeated–and finished the season with 10 gold medal performances in 11 disciplines. He’s only 26. Norway won every event at the World Championships. He has 68 podiums (56-8-4) since 2019.  Jens Lurås Oftebro jumped from sixth overall and eighth in time in 2021-2022 to second and first, respectively, last season, and took gold in the two relays at the World Championships. Lamparter had 12 podiums (7-4-1) last season plus three bronze medals at the championships.

 

WOMEN’S NORDIC COMBINED

Top Norwegians: Gyda Westvold Hansen, 21, (WC Champ; #1J; #3T); Ida Marie Hagen, 23, (#1T; #10J); Marte Leinan Lund, 24, (#2T)

Top Competitors: Best Jumpers: Annika Sieff (Italy), 20, (#2); Nathalie Armbruster (Germany), 17, (#3); Lisa Hirner (Austria), 20, (#4); Yuna Kasai (Japan), 19, (#5);  Haruka Kasai (Japan), 19, (#6); Jenny Nowak (Germany), 21, (#7); Best times: Anju Nakamura (Japan), 23, (#4); Armbruster (#5); Ema Volavsek (Slovenia), 20, (#7)

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Notes: This is the fourth year of women’s Nordic Combined and Hansen has taken control. She won all 10 World Cup events last season—winning her second straight World Cup title—and 15 overall counting all competitions. She won the only women’s event at the World Championships and was part of the gold-winning mixed relay squad. Hansen added a gold at Holmenkollen. Hagen had four podiums. It’s a young woman’s sport. Of the top players, the oldest is 24, the youngest 17.

 

MEN’S SKI JUMPING

Top Norwegians: Halvor Egner Granerud, 27 (WC Champ; #1 4 Hills, Raw Air Tournaments; #2 Sky Flying Standing); Marius Lindvik, 25, (20th WC); Daniel-André Tande, 29, (#10RA)

Top Competitors: Stefan Kraft (Austria), 30, (#1SF; #2Raw Air; #6 4H): Anze Lanisek (Slovenia), 27, (#3 4H, SF, RA); Dawid Kubacki (Poland), 33, (#2 4H); Ryoyu Kobayashi (Japan), 27, (#4RA); Piotr Zyla (Poland). 36. (#4 4H); Andreas Wellinger (Germany), 28, (#9 SF); Timi Zajc (Slovenia), 23, (#4SF); Daniel Tschofenig (Austria), 21, (#5RA); Jan Hörl (Austria), 25, (#6SF); Kamil Stoch (Poland), 36, (#5 4H)

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Notes: Austria (5 in top 13), Slovenia (5 in top 22), Poland (3 in top 14) have strong depth, but Norway (5 in top 21) has been known to podium in team events. Granerund has won two World Cups in three years with 41 podiums, 18 last year. Lindvik had 10 podiums in 2022. Kraft has been on the circuit since 2012, won World Cup in 2017 and 2020, finished second in 2019 and 2023, and stood on the podium 108 times including 17 in 2023 and 2017. Stoch won WC in 2014 and 2018 with 79 career podiums. Poland’s top three average age 35, Norway’s top four 27.25; Austria’s top 4 25.33, Slovenia’s top 5, 24.4.

ski

Photo: Geir Olsen / NTB
The United States’ Jessie Diggins leads Norway’s Tiril Udnes Weng and Nora Sannes and her teammate Rosie Brennan in the 50km race at Holmenkollen in March. Weng won the World Cup title last season.

 

WOMEN’S SKI JUMPING

Top Norwegians: Anna Odine Strøm, 25,  (#8 RA); Silje Opseth, 24, (4RA); Thea Minyan Bjørseth, 20, (14th WC); Maren Lundby, 29, (#10 RA)

Top Competitors: Eva Pinkelnig (Austria), 35, (WC Champ; #8RA); Katharina Schmid (Germany), 27, (#2RA): Ema Klinec (Slovenia), 25, (#1RA); Selina Freitag (Germany), 22, (#3RA); Chiara Kruezer (Austria), 26, (#6RA); Nika Kriznar (Slovenia), 23. (#5RA)

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Notes: Lundby won three straight World Cups 2018–2020, with 46 podiums in that stretch, 26 gold, 16 silver. After finishing 8th in 2021, she took off a year. Strøm and Opseth have become the Norwegian leaders, and Slovenia, Austria, and Germany have become the national powers. Pinkelnig had 18 podiums last season, 6 in each position. Schmid has 48 career podiums, 17 gold, in six seasons. Strøm had 10 podiums in 2022–2023.

 

MEN’S SNOWBOARDING

FREESKI SLOPESTYLE PARK & PIPE

Top Norwegians: Birk Ruud, 23, (WC Champ; #1 FSk Slopestyle, Big Air); Sebastian Schjerve, 23, (#4BA; #5Sty)

Top Competitors: Andri Ragettli  (Switzerland), 25, (#2Slst; #7BA); Birk Irving (United States), 24, (#1Halfpipe); Jesper Tjäder (Sweden), 29, (#3 Slst); Brendan Mackay (Canada), 26, (#2Halfpipe); Alexander Hall (United States), 25, (#4 Slst); Alex Ferriera (United States), 29, (#3Halfpipe); Noah Porter Laclennan (Canada), 20, (#3BA); Troy Podmilsak (USA), 19, (#2BA)

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Notes: Ruud collected gold in Freeski Slopestyle—Christian Nummedal, 28,  took silver and bronze in Freeski Big Air at the World Championships.

 

MEN’S SNOWBOARD PARK & PIPE

Top Norwegians: Marcus Kleveland, 24, (#3Big Air)

Top Competitors: Valentino Guseli (Australia), 18, (Overall P&P WC Champ; #1BA, #2Halfpipe, #3Slst); Dusty Henricksen (United States), 20, (#1Slst); Taiga Kasegawa (Japan), 18 (#2Slst; #5BA); Ruka Hirano (Japan), 21, (#1Halfpipe); Chris Corning (United States), 24, (#2BA);  Ryoma Kimata (Japan), 21, (#4BA); Su Yiming (China), 19, (took most of last season off)

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Notes: Kleveland is the elder of the Big Air group of Guseli, Kasegawa, Kimata, and Yiming that are listed as The Heavy Hitters on fis-ski.com. Kleveland is considered “perhaps the most technically gifted rider to ever strap on a snowboard… seems to invent tricks at will… thoroughbred innovator, and podium favorite every time.” Besides winning a gold in the freestyle slopestyle at last year’s World Championships, he is a two-time World Cup winner, two-time slopestyle world champion, and defending X-Games Big Air titlist.

Mons Røisland, 26, earned silver in Big Air world championships. Guseli is first in World Cup history to reach the podium in slopestyle, halfpipe, and big jump.

Kimata was a silver medalist at the World Championships.

And as if Japan wasn’t strong enough, Hiroto Ogiwara, 18, Kira Kimura, 19, and Takeru Otsuka, 22, swept the podium in the Big Air season opener at Chur (Switzerland), Oct. 21.

Ruud won Big Air two of the last three years; overall P&P last two years; had seven podiums, five gold, last season.

 

WOMEN’S SNOWBOARDING

FREESKI SLOPESTYLE PARK & PIPE

Top Norwegians: Sandra Eie, 28, (3rd Freestyle Slopestyle, WC; #4Freeski Slopestyle Big Air, #7Slopestyle)

Top Competitors: Tess Ledeux (France), 21, (#3Slst; Sarah Höfflin,  32, (Switzerland) #2Slst); Mathilde Gremaud (Switzerland), 23, (#4Slst); Rachael Karker (Canada), 26, (#1Half-pipe); Megan Oldham (Canada), 22, (#3BA; #5Slst); Amy Fraser (Canada), 28, (#2Halfpipe); Zhang Kexin (China), 21, (#3Halfpipe)

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Notes: Norway’s Johanne Killi, 26, who won the overall freeski slopestyle Park & Pipe and Slopestyle title and earned a bronze in last year’s world championships, retired after a stellar 10-year career, where she  became “one of the most successful freeskiers in women’s competition history,” says fis-ski.com. In her career, Killi earned podiums in 19 of 38 World Cup events, six gold; won the overall World Cup trophy in freeski and slopestyle; seven X-Games medals, one gold.

 

WOMEN’S SPEED SKATING

Top Norwegians: Ragne Wiklund, 23, (#1 Long Distances; #2 1,500m)

Top Competitors: 1,500m: Miho Takagi (Japan), 29, (#1); Antoinette Rijpma-de Jong  (Netherlands),  28, (#3); Nadezhda Morozova, 25, (Kazakhstan) (#4); Long Distances: Isabelle Weidemann (Canada), 28, (#2); Joy Beune (Netherlands), 24, (#3); Ivanie Blondin (Canada), 33, (#4)

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Notes: Wiklund, at 23, has had a meteoric rise to being Norway’s best women’s speed skater of all time. At 20, she shocked the speed skating world coming out of nowhere to become world champion in the 1,500m.  At last year’s world championships, she was favored in the 3,000m, which she won by +0.54 over Olympic champion Irene Schouten, 31, (Netherlands). Wiklund earned silver in the 1,500m and 5,000m. Unfortunately, after Wiklund, there’s a big drop. The Four Continents event will include Salt Lake City, Utah, Jan. 19-21. The World Championships will be in Calgary, Canada, Feb. 15-18.

skate

Photo: Christoffer Andersen / NTB
Norway’s Ragne Wiklund skates in the 3,000m at the European Championships in Hamar, Norway, last season.

 

MEN’S SPEED SKATING

Top Norwegians: Sander Eitrem, 21, (#3 Long Distances; #5 1,500m); Håvard Holmefjord Lorentzen, 31, (#8 1,000m); Peder Kongshaug, 22, (#11 1,500m); Sigurd Henriksen, 19,  (#9 LD); Hallgeir Engebråten, 23, (#10LD); Team Pursuit (#2); Team Sprint (#3)

Top Competitors: 1,000m: Hein Otterspeer (Netherlands), 35, (#1); Laurent Dubreuil (Canada), 31, (#2); Jordan Stolz (United States), 19, (#3); Thomas Krol (Netherlands), 31, (#4): 1,500m: Kjeld Nuis (Netherlands), 34, (#1); Connor Howe (Canada), 23, (#2);  Wesly Dijs (Netherlands), 28, (#4); Long Distance: Beau Snellink (Netherlands), 22, (#1); Patrick Roest (Netherlands), 27, (#2); Davide Ghiotto (Italy), 29, (#4); Team Pursuit: United States (#1); Netherlands (#3); Canada (#4); Team Sprint: Netherlands (#1); Canada (#2); Poland (#4); China (#5)

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Notes:Eitrem burst on the scene last year at age 20 and should only be getting better. He set a track record (6:15.06) in the 5,000m at Tomaszów Mazowiecki, Poland, Feb. 18, winning by 6.57. Netherlands are their usual powerful selves with a mixture of veterans and “youngsters” already making an impact. Canada also looks loaded.

This article originally appeared in the December 2023 issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE.

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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 NorCham Philadelphia. Visit Kleinerprweb.com; beyondthecold.com.