Norway’s top Olympic contenders
Jo Christian Weldingh
Norway’s Olympic squad won 26 medals in Sochi. The Norwegian Olympic Federation has stated that their goal is 30 medals in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The Norwegian athletes seem to be in peak condition as the Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang begin. Norway won 13 World Cup victories in Olympic sports just last weekend, so if every athlete performs up to their usual standards, the Norwegian record of 13 gold medals from Salt Lake City in 2002 might be broken. “Seventeen gold medals is realistic, and 20 gold medals isn’t all that unrealistic,” coach Johan Kaggestad said in an interview with NRK.
If Kaggestad is right, Norway will beat the world record of 14 gold medals set by Canada in 2010.
This is our list of the Norwegian athletes with the best chance of winning Olympic medals in 2018.
Johannes Høsflot Klæbo, the 22-year-old from Trøndelag, is only in his second season as a senior but has won almost every race he has participated in this season. He is the one to beat in every race in this Olympics, except maybe the 15km freestyle, a distance he probably won’t participate in. There has never been a bigger favorite in the classic sprint than Klæbo.
Martin Johnsrud Sundby has been the best cross-country skier the last couple of years. He has won the World Cup the last two seasons and been the one to beat in all long-distance races. He has not had the best season so far, but experts say he will probably be in his best form during the Olympics. Sundby is one of two or three skiers who can win the 15km freestyle.
Maiken Caspersen Falla is the reigning World and Olympic champion in the sprint and has won the sprint cup the last two seasons. She will have to fight off Stina Nilsson from Sweden, who has been the best sprinter this season, for the gold medal.
Marit Bjørgen is the one to beat in all the long-distance races. She might get competition from Charlotte Kalla from Sweden, but Bjørgen is almost always best during championship races. She will become the most accomplished Winter Olympian ever if she wins two or more gold medals.
Heidi Weng and Ingvild Flugstad Østberg might win medals, but they are not favorites in any of the races. Weng won a bronze in the 15km in 2014. Bjørgen won the team sprint with Østberg, while finishing second to Falla in the sprint.
Norway is the team to beat in all four relays. Russia is the biggest competitor on the men’s relays, while the United States and Sweden will be tough to beat in the team sprint. If Norway doesn’t win the 4x5km women’s relay, I’ll be very surprised.
No biathlete comes close to Johannes Thingnes Bø’s speed around the track, so if he is able to control his nerves during the shootings, he will win a lot of medals, for sure. He will get tough competition from Frenchman Martin Fourcade. Ole Einar Bjørndalen, all-time winningest Winter Olympian, did not qualify or receive a special place for his seventh Olympics.
Norway is also a huge favorite in the men’s relay, having won all the relays earlier in the season. France might be a challenger.
The women’s team also has a shot at a medal, but their shooting has been of varying quality this year, to put it mildly.
Aksel Lund Svindal has been one of the best skiers in the world for the last 15 years. He is suffering from a knee injury that might set him back a bit, but he is still, along with Beat Feuz from Switzerland, the biggest favorite in the Downhill race. I will be surprised if he doesn’t get at least one medal in either the downhill or Super-G.
Kjetil Jansrud is almost as big a favorite in the Super-G as Svindal is in the downhill race, but he has harder competition. He’s leading the Super-G cup and is almost always on the podium.
Henrik Kristoffersen, Norway’s boy wonder, has been amazing ever since his breakthrough in the World Cup four years ago but will get tough competition from Austrian legend Marcel Hirscher. Kristoffersen is on the podium in almost every race. Based on the last couple of seasons, either Hirscher or Kristoffersen will win the slalom gold. If I were to guess, I would say that Kristoffersen wins the silver in slalom and the bronze in giant slalom.
Maren Lundby has been the best female ski jumper all season and leads the World Cup. She will most likely end up with at least one medal.
The men’s team has won every team competition this season and are the favorites to take home the gold.
Jan Schmid leads the World Cup and has won the last few World Cup races. He seems to be in increasingly good shape and is one of the favorites in all the individual races.
Norway will most likely be fighting for second place behind Germany in the relay.
The snowboard competitions are always close, so it’s hard to predict a winner. However, Marcus Kleveland is incredibly talented and won last year’s slopestyle competition in the X-games.
Silje Norendal missed her chance of winning the slopestyle gold in Sochi. If she keeps a cool head, she most definitely is one of the favorites to win the Big Air competition.
Long Track Speed Skating
Håvard Lorentzen has been the leading 1,000m skater this year and is the favorite to take home the gold medal. He is one of the top contenders on the 500m race, too.
Jo Christian Weldingh grew up in Lillehammer, Norway, and lives in Oslo. He has a bachelor’s degree in archaeology from the University of Oslo and a bachelor’s degree in business administration from BI Norwegian Business School.
This article originally appeared in the Feb. 9, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.