Norway’s Olympic success sets high bar
Even with some legends retiring, expect to see Norwegians on podiums this winter
Jo Christian Weldingh
Last season, the Norwegian Winter Olympic squad was the most successful nation at the Games with 39 total medals, setting a record for the most medals won by a country at a single Winter Olympics. This means that with the winter sports season about to begin, the bar is set sky high, and Norwegians everywhere expect victories in almost every sport, every race, every weekend. This is our list of the Norwegian winter athletes who are expected to dominate the four most popular winter sports in Norway this season.
Johannes Høsflot Klæbo, the 22-year-old boy wonder from Trøndelag, is only in his third season as a senior but won almost every race he participated in last season. He is the one to beat in every race, especially the sprints and mass starts.
Therese Johaug is back from her two-year suspension and is expected to dominate the women’s cross-country circuit this year. All reports point to her being an even stronger skier than she was when she was suspended back in 2016. She will get tough competition from some of the Swedish skiers, especially Charlotte Kalla.
Petter Northug’s 2017-18 season was destroyed by health problems. The skiing legend is said to be on track this year, though, and has been performing better in training than he has been in several years. Northug is back on the national team again after having spent the last five years on his own private team, Team Northug. This is expected to have a positive effect on his form.
Aksel Lund Svindal is seen by many as one of the greatest skiers ever, especially after winning Norway’s first ever downhill gold medal in PyeongChang. Svindal has been plagued by a knee injury for years, so it will be exciting to see if his body is up to the task. But if he’s on the starting line, he’ll be one of the favorites to win in any race.
Henrik Kristoffersen, another boy wonder, has been the world’s second-best slalom and giant slalom skier for a couple of seasons now, more often than not beaten by Austrian skiing magician Marcel Hirscher. Entering this season, it will be exciting to see if he has been able to surpass his rival, or if he will still be fighting for second place.
Kjetil Jansrud is not as famous or celebrated as his teammate Svindal but is in many ways just as good a skier. He won the downhill silver medal in PyeongChang and has five Olympic medals combined. He is on the podium in almost every Super-G or Downhill race.
Ragnhild Mowinckel became the winningest Norwegian female alpine skier in the Olympics in PyeongChang by winning two silver medals. Last year being her breakthrough season, she is expected to be even better this year, after having trained with the men’s team over the summer.
After last year’s Olympic season, two of Norway’s best biathletes of all time, Emil Hegle Svendsen and Ole Einar Bjørndalen, said goodbye to the sport. The two legends have 12 Olympic gold medals between them, so they will be missed by both teammates and fans. This will be the first season since 1993 where Norwegian television viewers won’t be able to see Bjørndalen compete.
The torch has already been passed to 25-year-old Johannes Thingnes Bøe, who won three Olympic medals in PyeongChang last winter and is expected to dominate biathlon in the years to come. His exceptional speed around the tracks is maybe his greatest strength as a biathlete.
Håvard Holmefjord Lorentzen got his big breakthrough last season with both an Olympic title and a World Championship, and he is expected to continue his progress this year. The 25-year-old from Bergen was the world’s best 500-meter skater last season.
This article originally appeared in the November 30, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.