Skier Petter Northug retires

Cross-country skiing loses a “rock star”

Petter Northug

Photo: Anders Martinsen / Coop / Wikimedia Commons
Petter Northug in 2013.

Pieter Wijnen
Norway Today

In front of a large press corps in Trondheim, a groomed 32-year-old announced that his long and eventful career as a cross-country superstar is over. He had trouble holding back the tears when he first and foremost gave thanks to his family for all the support they have provided over the years.

“I have made the decision to retire as a skier. As I said at Beitostølen, it has been a tricky late summer and autumn. I have tried to be in good shape when the season was about to start, but I have for the last two weeks known that I lack the little extra to deliver at this level. I cannot bear to use more energy and effort to keep my place on the team when I’m so far behind.

“It has been an adventure. As a little boy I had a dream to become a good skier and I’m proud of what I’ve got. Cross-country skiing has been my life for many years, and it’s tough to give it up, but at the same time, it’s a bit good as well.”

A clearly touched Northug struggled on stage at his final press conference. “This was tougher than I had thought,” he admitted.

Northug has had a troubled entry to the season and has not been even close to the Norwegian national team so far. Northug stated during the season opener at Beitostølen that if he would not be able to ski fast by mid-December it was over. On Dec. 12, the final decision was made.

Northug has won 13 World Ski Championships gold medals, two Olympic gold medals, and two overall victories in the World Cup, among other achievements.

The sprinter from Mosvik, Nord-Trøndelag, will be remembered as a central figure in modern cross-country skiing. He won gold medals in a period when other Norwegian skiers most often failed.

With phrases such as  “Who’s da King?” and “It’s darn easy,” he has charmed from the start of his career, becoming one of Norway’s most popular athletes.

The big downturn

However, all has not been sunshine. A central turning point came in May 2014. One Sunday morning, a drunken Northug went for a drive and ended up in a crash barrier.

He was sentenced to 50 days imprisonment, a sentence he served out at home.

Comeback

Northug returned with strong appearances at the Tour de Ski and the World Ski Championships in February 2015.

It started with a victory in the sprint, the opening event of the World Championships. Three days later, he won the gold medal in the team sprint alongside Finn Hågen Krogh, and also secured gold for Norway as anchor in the relay. In the 50K, which concluded that championship, he appeared at the end with his usual sprint to secure his fourth World Ski Championship in one week.

Superstar

Northug’s personality has made him known outside the ski track. He is a “rock star” in a sport best known for its sturdy, hard-working toilers.

The star status enabled him to abandon Norway’s national team and continue training with a private team. He earned millions to represent Coop, among other sponsorships.

Several have suggested that his efforts outside the national team contribute to his lack of success in recent years.

Olympic controversy

In 2006, national team coach Kristen Sørgård made controversy by omitting a 20-year-old Northug from the Winter Olympics team headed to Turin, Italy. Many spoke up for his participation, but coach Sørgård decided that he was too immature.

At one point, it went so far that King Harald was asked if he would intervene on Northug’s behalf, but Turin was not to be.

Answered

Northug answered with gold medals in all four events of the Nordic Junior World Ski Championships a week later.

The skier was adamant that he would never again be omitted from a championship team. He backed this up with results that made it impossible to leave him out for years.

The World Ski Championships in 2015, was, however, his last hurrah.

Henceforth, Northug will be found in his new role as an expert commentator for Norway’s TV2.

This article originally appeared in the December 28, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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