Norway’s Winter Olympics Medal Contenders
Who they are, how we think they’ll do
Business and Sports Editor
The Norwegian American
JO CHRISTIAN WELDINGH
Norway is the all-time leader in Most Winter Olympic Medals won. At the 2018 games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Norway set the record for one Games with 39 medals. At the snow sports world championships last year, Norway dominated. As the beginning of the Olympics on Feb. 4 nears, some say Norway could win 45 medals. The Norwegian Olympic Committee’s goal is 32. Our experts won’t go as far as predicting 45. That would be around five medals for each sport covered here. One thing is clear: Norway has a very strong team and could very well return to Norway with the most medals for the ninth time in Olympic history. See below for who to watch. The games conclude Feb. 20.
On the Snow
Men’s Cross-Country Skiing
Top Norwegians: Johannes Høsflot Klæbo (distance and sprint), 25, Erik Valnes (sprint), 25, Pål Golberg (sprint), 31, Simen Hegstad Krüger (distance), 28, Håvard Solås Taugbøl (sprint), 28, Sjur Røthe (distance), 33.
Top Competition: Alexander Bolshunov (Russia, distance and sprint), 25; Iivo Niskanen (Finland, distance), 30, Ivan Yakimushkin (Russia, distance), 25, Denis Spitsov (Russia, distance), 25, Alexander Terentev (Russia, sprint), 22, Richard Jouve (France, sprint), 27, Alexey Chervotkin (Russia, distance), 26, Federico Pellegrino (Italy, sprint), 31, Sergey Ustiugov (Russia, distance), 29.
Outlook: It should come down to Russia and Norway, as both have excellent depth, and Norway has four skiers among the top 10 (Klæbo, Valnes, Golberg, Harald Østberg Amundsen, 23, but Amundsen was not selected for the team as of Jan. 10), 10 in the top 20 in the World Cup standings. Russia has seven in the top 15. Klæbo, ranked first overall, is unique as he is equally dominant in the sprint (ranked first) and distance (second). He won the Tour de Ski earlier this month by 2:03.2, winning the last 15km classic by 20.8, and led a four-way Norway sweep of the last sprint race. Bolshunov wrested the World Cup trophy from Klæbo last year and the rivalry continues. Ustiugov had a good season last year. Podium sweeps for both countries are a possibility.
Women’s Cross-Country Skiing
Top Norwegians: Therese Johaug (distance), 33, Heidi Weng (sprint), 30, Tirill Udnes Weng (sprint and distance), 25, Lotta Udnes Weng (sprint), 25, Mathilde Myhrvold (sprint), 23, Anne Kjersti Kalvå (distance), 29.
Top Competition: Frida Karlsson (Sweden, distance), 22, Natalya Nepryaeva (Russia, distance and sprint), 26, Ebba Andersson (Sweden, distance), 24, Jessie Diggins (United States, sprint and distance), 30, Krista Pärmäkoski (Finland, distance), 31, Kerttu Niskanen (Finland, distance), 33, Maja Dahlqvist (Sweden, sprint), 27, Anamarija Lampic (Slovenia, sprint), 26, Tatiana Sorina (Russia, distance), 27, Katharina Hennig (Germany, distance), 25, Nadine Fähndrich (Switzerland, sprint), 26, Rosie Brennan (United States, sprint and distance), 33.
Outlook: This is the return to the Olympics for Johaug, who medaled in 2010 and 2014. In 2016, she tested positive for the anabolic steroid clostebol. The Norwegian Olympic Committee suspended her for 13 months, which would’ve ended in time for the 2018 Olympics. The Court of Arbitration for Sport imposed an 18-month suspension retroactive to October 18, 2016. Since her return in 2018-2019, Johaug has been the most dominant women’s skier in the world. Through Jan. 9, she had 38 individual golds, seven silvers, and one bronze during that time. Add five relay wins and a bronze. At the last two world championships in 2019 and 2021, she collected eight gold and a silver. She is sure to be hyped for the Olympics but there may be challenges. She didn’t participate in the Tour de Ski in December and January, and she dropped to 13th in the World Cup standings—second in distance and trails two teammates, sisters Heidi Weng (4th) and Tiril Udnes Weng (11th). Diggins made a statement for American women’s cross-country by winning the World Cup last year. She had a good Tour de Ski and is third in the overall standings, third in sprint, seventh in distance. Nepryaeva won the Tour de Ski and is first overall—468 points ahead of Johaug—fifth in distance, eighth in sprint. Heidi Weng had a good Tour de Ski and moved into fourth overall, third in distance. Karlsson has beaten Johaug twice this season. In the season opener at Ruku, Finland, Karlsson won the 10km classic by 13.7, but the next day Johaug beat Karlsson in the 15km individual start by 7.5. At Lillehammer, Dec. 4, Karlsson won the 10km freestyle by 0.3. Last January at Falun, Sweden, Diggins edged Johaug by 2.1 in the 10km freestyle, and Johaug finished third by 0.9 behind Linn Svahn (Sweden) and Yuliya Stupak (Russia) in the 10km mass start. Dahlqvist and Lampic are the top sprinters, Fähndrich fifth. We’re either in for exciting close races or Johaug will blitz the field.
Top Norwegians: Men: Johannes Thingnes Bø, 28, Vetle Sjåstad Christiansen, 29, Sturla Holm Lægreid, 24, Tarjei Bø, 33. Women: Marte Olsbu Røiseland, 31, Tiril Eckhoff, 31.
Top Competition: Men: Emilien Jacquelin (France), 26, Quentin Fillon Maillet (France), 29, Sebastian Samuelsson (Sweden), 24. Women: Elvira Öberg (Sweden), 22, Dzinara Alimbekava (Belarus), 26.
Outlook: The Norwegian biathlon team has not been able to follow up last year’s season when both Johannes Thingnes Bø and Tiril Eckhoff won the overall men’s and women’s World Cup, and the Norwegian team had a phenomenal World Championship. Nevertheless, Røiseland has won five World Cup races this season and is leading the overall World Cup standings. Johannes Thingnes Bø has been struggling. Christiansen has improved significantly, currently third in the men’s standings. There are four Norwegians in the top 7. Norway are favorites in all the team competitions. At Oberhof, Germany, Jan., 7-9, the men and women combined for three gold (two individual by Røiseland, one relay) and three bronze.
Top Norwegians: Jarl Magnus Riiber, 24, Jens Lurås Oftebro, 21, Jørgen Graabak, 30.
Top Competition: Johannes Lamparter (Austria), 20, Terence Weber (Germany), 25, Vinzenz Geiger (Germany), 24.
Outlook: Riiber, three-time defending World Cup champion, has won seven out of eight races this season and is the biggest Norwegian gold medal hope in these Olympic games. There’s no women’s competition in the Olympics. Oftebro and Graabak give Norway three athletes in the top 10 standings.
Men’s Ski Jumping
Top Norwegians: Halvor Egner Granerud, 25, Marius Lindvik, 23, Robert Johansson, 31, Johann Andre Forfang, 26, Daniel-Andre Tande, 27.
Top Competition: Ryoyu Kobayashi (Japan), 25, Karl Geiger (Germany), 28, Markus Eisenbichler (Germany), 30, Anze Lanisek (Slovenia), 25, Stefan Kraft (Austria), 28, Killian Peier (Switzerland), 26, Jan Hörl (Austria), 23, Kamil Stoch (Poland), 34, Dawid Kubacki (Poland), 31, Daniel Huber (Austria), 29, Lovro Kos (Slovenia), 22, Yukiya Sato (Japan), 26.
Outlook: In recent years, Norway has not always been able to pick up individual medals, but reach the podium on team events. However, the men and women combined for two gold, one silver, and two bronze at Pyeongchang. Last year, Granerud burst on the scene. By the time he finished two events at the world championships, he had enough points to clinch the World Cup title, the first Norwegian since Anders Bardal in 2012. He also had coronavirus. Eisenbichler was second, Stoch third, Johansson fourth. Currently, Granerud, with one World Cup win, is third behind Kobayashi and Geiger. Lindvik, the “young” star a few years ago, is fourth, Johansson 9th, giving Norway three jumpers in the top nine. Lindvik, who is still only 23 years old, went 1,2 with Granerud at Bischofshofen, Austria, Jan. 8, and the team of Tande, Forfang, Granerud, and Lindvik was third in the team HS142 to Austria and Japan the following day. Kobayashi won Four Hills this season, followed by Lindvik, Granerud, Eisenbichler, Geiger and Johansson. Kubacki battled Granerud last year, but he is stuck in 36th place this season. In March, Tande had a bad fall during a training run at Planica. He was put in an artificial coma, suffered a fracture of the collarbone, a punctured lung and four cerebral hemorrhages. He is back jumping and has two podium finishes. Norway should pick up a few medals.
Women’s Ski Jumping
Top Norwegians: Silje Opseth, 22, Anna Odine Strøm, 23, Thea Minyan Bjørseth, 18.
Top Competition: Marita Kramer (Austria), 20, Katharina Althaus (Germany), 25, Ursa Bogataj (Slovenia), 26, Ema Klinec (Slovenia), 23, Sara Takanashi (Japan), 25, Nika Kriznar (Slovenia), 21, Daniela Iraschko-Stolz (Austria), 38, Eva Pinkelnig (Austria), 33, Jacqueline Seifriedsberger (Austria), 30, Lisa Eder (Austria), 20.
Outlook: Three-time World Cup champion Maren Lundby is taking a year off and will be broadcasting. Here’s who Lundby will be commenting about. Opseth had a great 2020-2021 season, placing fourth, and is seventh this season with two silvers and a bronze, putting her in medal contention. Strøm, and Bjørseth, are 12th and 14th in the standings, respectively. Austria and Slovenia are powerful with five Austrians in the top 11, three Slovenians in the top 6. In nine competitions, Kramer has five golds, two silvers, one bronze, one fourth. Klinec, Althaus, Kriznar, and Takanashi have the other golds. Bogataj has two silver and three bronze, Althaus two silver and two bronze.
Top Norwegians: Men: Aleksander Aamodt Kilde (Downhill and Super-G), 29, Henrik Kristoffersen (Slalom and Giant Slalom), 27, Sebastian Foss-Solevåg (Slalom and Giant Slalom), 30. Women: Ragnhild Mowinckel (Super-G, Giant Slalom and Downhill), 29.
Top Competition: Men: Dominik Paris (Italy, Downhill), 32, Matthias Mayer (Austria, Downhill and Super-G), 31, Marco Odermatt (Switzerland, Giant Slalom), 24, Alexis Pinturault (France, Slalom and Giant Slalom), 30. Women: Mikaela Shiffrin (United States, all disciplines), 26, Petra Vlhova (Slovakia, slalom), 26, Sofia Goggia (Italy, Downhill, Super-G), 29, Sara Hector (Sweden, giant slalom), 29, Wendy Holdener (Switzerland, Slalom), 28, Federica Brignone (Italy, Super-G), 31.
Outlook: Second-ranked Kilde has already won three World Cup races this season and is the biggest favorite in the Downhill race. Sixth-ranked Kristoffersen and reigning World Champion Foss-Solevåg both have one World Cup victory each. Mowinckel, who won two silver medals in Pyeongchang, seems to be finding her form after an injury and is ranked 10th. Norway has a formidable group in the team competitions. Shiffrin is the overall points leader, but Vlhova is tops in slalom; Goggia No. 1 in Downhill and Super-G, Hector the best in giant slalom; Holdener third in slalom, and Brignone second in Super-G.
Top Norwegians: Men: Ferdinand Dahl (Slopestyle and Big Air), 23, Christian Nummedal (Slopestyle and Big Air), 26, Birk Ruud (Slopestyle and Big Air), 21, Women: Johanne Killi (Slopestyle and Big Air), 24.
Top Competition: Men: Matěj Švancer (Austria, Big Air), 17, Max Moffatt (Canada, Slopestyle), 23.
Outlook: Ruud is the team’s big star and the big Norwegian gold medal hope in the men’s competition. This season, Ruud has one World Cup victory in Slopestyle and a third place in Big Air. Dahl and Killi have also appeared on the podium.
Top Norwegians: Marcus Kleveland (Slopestyle and Big Air), 22, Mons Røisland (Slopestyle and Big Air), 24.
Top Competition: Sébastien Toutant (Canada, Slopestyle), 29, Jonas Boesiger (Switzerland, Big Air), 26, Yiming Su (China, Big Air), 17, Ruka Hirano (Japan), 19.
Outlook: Kleveland is among the sport’s biggest stars and could fight for a gold medal in both Slopestyle and Big Air. He won the World Cup, two World Championship medals and a X-Games gold medal last season. Røisland has placed on the podium in the same disciplines this season. Hirano leads a tight standings.
On the ice
Top Norwegians: Håvard Holmefjord Lorentzen (1,000m), 29, Allan Dahl Johansson (1,500m), 23, Peder Kongshaug (1,500m), 20, Kristian Ulekleiv (mass start, 1,500m), 25, Sverre Lunde Pedersen (Team Pursuit), 29, Team Pursuit
Top Competition: 1,000m: Thomas Krol (Netherlands), 29, Kjeld Nuis (Netherlands), 32, Hein Otterspeer (Netherlands), 33, Ning Zjonghan (China), 22, Laurent Dubreuil (Canada), 29, Kai Verbij (Netherlands), 27, Masaya Yamada (Japan), 25, Ignat Golovatsiuk (Belarus), 24, Cha Min-kyu (South Korea), 28, Cornelius Kersten (Great Britain), 27; 1,500m: Joey Mantia (United States), 35, Ning Zjonghan (China), 22, Connor Howe (Canada), 21, Seitaro Ichinohe (Japan), 25, Takuro Oda (Japan), 29, Kim Min-seok (South Korea), 22, Taiyo Nonomura (Japan), 20; Mass Start: Bart Swings (Belgium), 30, Ruslan Zakharov (Russia), 34, Andrea Giovannini (Italy), 28, Chung Jae-won (South Korea), 20, Lee Seung-hoon (South Korea), 33, Ian Quinn (United States), 28, Livio Wenger (Switzerland), 28, Joey Mantia (United States), 35, Antoine Gélinas-Beaulieu (Canada), 29. Team Pursuit: United States, Canada, Netherlands, Italy.
Outlook: Is this the year someone overtakes the dominance of the Netherlands? At the International Skating Union website, it taps Japan and Norway as the top contenders to possibly pull that off. Norway earned two golds, a silver, and a bronze in 2018, most since the 1994 Olympics at Lillehammer. Ten skaters were selected for the 2022 Olympic team, one shy of the maximum. Among the selections was Pedersen, who is working his way back after a serious bike accident last May but is valuable on the Team Pursuit, which won gold in 2018. Pedersen also took bronze in the 5,000m. He didn’t qualify in the 5,000m. His father, Jarle, raced in the 500m at the 1980 Winter Olympics. Norway is second to the United States in Team Pursuit standings. They took silver behind the United States in the World Cup Team Pursuit in Calgary, Dec. 12, and Pedersen said the Americans are very strong. At Pyeongchang, Lorentzen won gold in the 500m and silver in the 1,000m, but he had a false start in the 500m at the European Championships on Jan. 9. He is third in the 1,000m standings. Also at Calgary, Johansson, took bronze in the 1,500m, his first World Cup medal in four years. He is fourth in the 1,500m, Kongshaug 8th. While the Dutch have four skaters in the top 10 of the 1,000m, they don’t have anyone in that sphere in the other events Norway is racing. Ulekleiv is 10th in mass start. At the Euro championships Jan. 7-9, Norway collected two silver and two bronze.
Top Norwegians: Ragne Wiklund (1,500m, long distances, Team Pursuit), 21, Sofie Karoline Haugen (distance, mass start), 26.
Top Competition: 1,500m: Ayana Sato (Japan), 25, Brittany Bowe (United States), 33, Miho Takagi (Japan), 27, Elizaveta Golubeva (Russia), 25, Francesca Lollobrigida (Italy), 30, Ireen Wüst (Netherlands), 35, Nadezhda Morozova (Kazakhstan), 25, Antoinette de Jong (Netherlands), 26, Han Mei (China), 23. Long distances: Isabelle Weidemann (Canada), 26, Irene Schouten (Netherlands), 29, Franciesca Lollobrigida (Italy), 30, Martina Sáblíková (Czech Republic), 34, Joy Beune (Netherlands), 22, Ivanie Blondin (Canada), 31, Natalya Voronina (Russia), 27, Valerie Maltais (Canada), 31, Antoinette de Jong, 26, (Netherlands).
Team Pursuit: Canada, Japan, Netherlands, Russia
Outlook: Talk about making an impression. You’re 20 years old. It’s your first world championship. You haven’t come close to beating the legendary speedskaters in your field in previous matchups. You’re hoping for fourth or third. And you win and are a world champion. That’s what happened to Wiklund last February when she skated a personal best 1:54.613 in the 1,500m, 0.42 ahead of long-time American star Bowe, 0.48 in front of Russian Evgeniia Lalenkova. Wiklund was the first Norwegian woman champion since 1938. Currently, Wiklund is sixth in the 1,500m standings behind Sato, Bowe, Takagi, Golubeva, and Lollobrigida, and second in long distances behind Weidemann. Norway is fifth in team pursuit behind Canada, Japan, Netherlands, and Russia. Haugen earned her first World Cup podium in Salt Lake City, Utah, in early December with a bronze in mass start. At the European Championships, Jan. 7-9, Norway earned a silver in team pursuit and bronze in team sprint. Medal hopes rest with Wiklund in her Olympic debut. How about one, maybe two?
Norway team: Markus Høiberg, 30, Magnus Nedregotten, 31, Torger Nergård, 47, Magnus Vågberg, 26, Steffen Walstad, 32.
Mixed Doubles: Nedregotten, Kristin Moen Skaslien, 35.
Top Competition: Sweden, Switzerland, Canada, United States, Scotland/Great Britain
Top Mixed Doubles: Canada, Switzerland
Outlook: Norway was undefeated (8-0) in its qualifying group, but lost the European Championship bronze medal game at Lillehammer to Italy, which is eighth in the World Curling Federation rankings, one spot after Norway. There’s a big drop in ratings points from fifth-place Scotland/Great Britain (61.03) to sixth-place Japan (39.715) and seventh-place Norway (39.161). Heck, there’s a 23.303-point drop from top-ranked Sweden and second-ranked Switzerland. Unless the stones slide right, a medal for Norway seems unlikely. However, Nedregotten and Skaslien, who are married to each other, received bronze in 2018 after Alexander Krushelnitskiy of Olympic Athletes from Russia tested positive for the banned substance meldonium. The medals initially awarded to him and his wife, Anastasia Bryzgalova, were transferred to Nedregotten and Skaslien. A bronze could happen again—they’d prefer to earn it by winning in the medal round — or better. Norway’s mixed doubles is ranked third behind Canada and Switzerland.
This article originally appeared in the Jan. 21, 2022, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.