Spectators banned from World Cup at Holmenkollen
Norway men win team ski jumping, Riiber Nordic Combined
Jo Christian Weldingh
Tens of thousands of people were denied entrance to the Nordic skiing events at Holmenkollen on March 7–8 because of fear of contributing to the spread of coronavirus.
Two days before the annual celebration was supposed to start, the Oslo City Council sent out a press release stating that the events would be closed to the general public because of the recent novel coronavirus outbreak in Oslo. Everything would be televised as planned, but the stands would sit empty.
Over 30,000 spectators, including members of the royal family, were expected to arrive in Holmenkollen for the yearly World Cup event, where athletes from around the world compete in cross-country skiing, ski jumping, and Nordic combined (ski jumping and cross-country skiing). It’s seen as the biggest World Cup event of the season, and since this season lacks both a world championship and an Olympic Games, Holmenkollen is the most prestigious event.
The Holmenkollen races, Holmenkollrennet in Norwegian, have been conducted since 1892. The Nordic Combined competition and the 50k cross-country skiing race have been held the longest, but the ski jumping competition is what made the event known worldwide. Around 106,000 spectators attended in 1946, the first after the German occupation during World War II (1940-45), and 120,000 were present during the Olympic competition in 1952. The 50k cross-country race is also among the most famous winter sports races in the world and amasses thousands of celebrating Norwegians along the course every year.
Considering this, it was a new and different experience that awaited the athletes in this year’s edition of Holmenkollrennet.
The lack of Norwegian flags and cheering crowds might have made a bigger impact on the Norwegian cross-country skiers than expected. The women’s and men’s cross-country races were won by a Swede, prodigy Frida Karlsson, and a Russian, World Cup leader and this season’s best skier, Alexander Bolshunov, respectively.
Therese Johaug came in second in the women’s race, losing by the smallest possible margin after making a blunder by deciding not to change skis heading into her last lap. With 12 kilometers left to go, Johaug was leading by well over a minute. The athletes can change skis two times during a 30k race, an opportunity Johaug didn’t take. Karlsson however, changed to her best pair and immediately started gaining on Johaug. It came down to a sprint finish that ended with Karlsson’s first ever World Cup victory, 1.2 seconds ahead of Johaug, at 1 hour, 22 minutes, 19.1 seconds.
The outcome of the men’s cross-country race was less of a surprise. Bolshunov has been in a class of his own in the classic distance races this season, and no one was ever able to threaten his victory. He didn’t have any problems beating Simen Hegstad Krüger in a sprint finish to secure his second consecutive Holmenkollen victory.
The individual men’s and women’s ski jumping competitions on the final day were canceled due to poor weather conditions, but the Saturday men’s team competition went as planned. Marius Lindvik, Johann André Forfang, Daniel-André Tande and Robert Johansson secured a Norwegian victory in front of empty stands.
Nordic combined athlete Jarl Magnus Riiber is not one of the most talked about athletes in Norway, but this year he has been the best by a big margin. The 22-year-old has won a record 14 out of 17 World Cup competitionsand was awarded his overall World Cup trophy after winning the Nordic Combined race in Holmenkollen. He jumped 135 meters and completed the 10-kilometer course in 23:59.9, winning by 54.1 seconds. Riiber is described as a unique talent and is expected to dominate the sport for the next decade. Jørgen Gråbak was seccond in the World Cup standings, 480 points behind his teammate.
The year 2020 was a sad chapter in the proud history that is Holmenkollen. However, the next chapter is less than a year away.
This article originally appeared in the March 20, 2020, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.