Norwegian cross-country skiers dominate FIS Nordic World Ski Championships 2021

cross country

Photo: Terje Pedersen / NTB scanpix
Saved for posterity, Norway’s gold medal winning 4×10-km relay team, from left, Johannes Høsflot Klaebo, Hans Christer Holund, Emil Iversen and Pål Golberg.


Not even COVID-19 could stop the Norwegian cross-country team from dominating the Nordic Ski World Championship in Oberstdorf, Germany, Feb. 24–March 7. The Norwegians won nine out of 12 gold medals, more than all the other countries combined.

The coronavirus affected the championships in different ways. If you wanted to be present at the championship compound, you had to be tested at least every other day. The events were held without spectators. Every athlete, coach, journalist, and volunteer were obliged to present a negative test every single day. Besides the competing athletes, every single person had to wear a mask at all times.

Therese Johaug

Photo: Lise Åserud / NTB scanpix
Therese Johaug crosses the finish line.

If the championship had a queen, it would have been Therese Johaug. The 32-year-old Norwegian won every single competition she participated in: 15-km skiathlon (38:35.5), 10-km freestyle (23:09.8), 4×5-km relay (53:43.2) and 30-km classical mass start (1:24.56.3), to bring home four gold medals. The feat moved her into third place on the list of the winningest athletes in the championship’s history, only beaten by Yelena Vyalbe of Russia and Marit Bjørgen of Norway, who took four gold in 2011, 2013, and 2017. Johaug also passed Petter Northug, the only male skier to win four golds in multiple world championships. Johaug has collected 13 golds at the world championships in her career.

Therese Johaug

Photo: Lise Åserud / NTB scanpix
Therese Johaug had plenty to smile about, with four more gold world championship gold medals.

Johaug earned the most money in the world championship at NOK 513,536 kroner (almost $61,000).

“It is fantastic to be allowed to be included in that company,” Johaug told NTB. “Norway has really delivered in cross-country skiing, combined and jumping. It is incredibly fun that we manage to succeed as a nation. I must be a little patriotic and say it was incredibly fun that my cousin (Gyda Westvold Hansen) took that gold in combination for women that was arranged for the first time.”

Maiken Caspersen Falla and Heidi Weng both won individual silver medals in the sprint and the 30-km classical mass start (1:27.30.5), respectively.

The Norwegian men were even more dominant than the women’s team, winning five of six possible gold medals. Johannes Høsflot Klæbo started with a gold medal in the individual sprint, leading a sweep with Erik Valnes and Håvard Solås Tagbøl. Klæbo and Valnes teamed up to win the gold in the team sprint (15:01.74) four days later. Hans Christer Holund won the 15-km freestyle individual gold medal (33:48.7), while Emil Iversen won the 50-km classical mass start (2:10:52.9) after a controversial disqualification of Klæbo 30 minutes after the race was over.

Simen Hegstad Krüger won the silver medal in the 30-km skiathlon (1:11:35.0) and the 15-km freestyle individual (34:08.9), and a bronze medal in the 50-km classical mass start race (2:11.01.1).

cross country

Photo: Lise Åserud / NTB scanpix
Pål Golberg sets the pace in the opening leg of the 4×10-km relay at the world championships.

Taugbøl (individual sprint), Holund (30-km skiathlon 1:11:35.6) and Harald Østberg Amundsen (15-km freestyle individual 34:24.3 for a Norwegian sweep) won one individual bronze medal each.

The only skiers able to put a dent in the Norwegian dominance were this World Cup season’s best individual skier, Russia’s Alexander Bolshunov (1,613 pts), who won the men’s 30-km skiathlon (1:11:33.9). Swede Jonna Sundling won the sprint and the women’s team sprint with Maja Dahlqvist (16:27.94). 

Klæbo is ninth, Iversen 10th in the standings. American Jessie Diggins leads the women (1,246), with Johaug ninth.

The FIS Nordic World Ski Championships is a biennial Nordic skiing event organized by the International Ski Federation (FIS). The World Championship was started in 1925 for men and opened for women’s participation in 1954. The championship events include Nordic skiing’s three disciplines: cross-country skiing, ski jumping, and Nordic combined. 

This article originally appeared in the March 26, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American.

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Jo Christian Weldingh

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.