Norwegians dominate World Champs
The country famed for its winter sports captures 13 golds, 25 total medals in ski events
Jo Christian Weldingh
The strength of the Norwegian cross-country skiing team could not be illustrated better than when Hans Christer Holund outpaced the rest of the field in the finishing 50-km race of the world championships in Seefeld, Austria, March 3. Holund was the only one of the four Norwegians in the race without an individual World or Olympic Championship heading into the race, and it was his turn. He won by 27.8 seconds (1:49:59.3). Sjur Røthe, Martin Johnsrud Sundby, and Simen Hegstad Krüger finished at places three through five.
Holund’s gold medal was the Norwegian men’s team’s sixth gold medal in six attempts this championship, which began Feb. 21—a feat that is nothing less than impressive. The fact that all the four individual gold medals were won by four different skiers is also astonishing. Johannes Høsflot Klæbo won the 1.6-km sprint (3:21.17); Røthe the 30-km skiathlon (36:31.7) by .1 (Sundby third); Sundby the 15-km classic (38:22.6); Emil Iversen and Klæbo the 6×1.6-km team sprint relay, and Iversen, Sundby, Røthe, and Klæbo the 4×10-km relay (1:42:32.1).
On the women’s side, Therese Johaug won three individual gold medals—just like everyone expected—15-km skiathlon by 57.6 seconds (36:54.5) over teammate Ingvild Flugstad Østberg; 10-km individual start in 27:02.1 (Østberg third), and 30-km by 36.8 over Østberg (1:14.26.2), while Maiken Caspersen Falla won the 1.2-km sprint (2:32.35). Johaug teamed with Heidi Weng, Østberg, and Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen for a silver in the 4×5-km relay (55:24.1), while Falla and Østberg settled for bronze in a close finish in the 6×1.2-km sprint relay (15:15.53).
Never before has Norway won more medals in a World Championship: 13 gold medals, five silver, and seven bronze.
To put the Norwegian team’s performance into perspective, in last year’s Olympic Games, Norway set a record in number of medals, winning 14 gold medals. In this World Championship, Norway almost tied that number, but only in three sports.
“It’s pretty bad. The sport has never seen anything like this before,” Swedish commentator Mathias Fredriksson proclaimed to the Swedish television audience, playing on the fact that Norway and Sweden have had a long-time (friendly) rivalry within the cross-country sport.
“It’s a dream come true,” Norwegian National team boss Vidar Løfshus told NRK. “We have won all six men’s races and four of the six women’s races. It has been an incredible journey.”
Løfshus, who is set to retire at the end of the season, can look back on a job well done.
“The job was done before we came here,” he continued. “All the training over the last couple of years, through the summer, fall, and winter, is why we have done so well.”
NRK’s cross-country expert Fredrik Aukland echoes Løfshus’ assessment: “These medals are a result of very hard work over several years,” he said. “The guys have been working hard together for a long time. It’s about quality in training.”
Norwegian coach Eirik Myhr Nossum has already started the preparation for the 2021 World Championship in Oberstdorf, Germany: “It’s almost impossible to do any better, at least not on the men’s side, but we will do our best to be as well prepared as we were this year.”
Ski jumper Maren Lundby and the Nordic Combined teams also contributed to Norway’s amazing championship.
First, Nordic combined athlete Jan Schmid won the silver medal (HS109/10-km in 23:47.3), Norway’s first individual Nordic combined medal in 10 years. Then, Jarl Magnus Riiber won Norway’s first individual gold medal in 18 years when he won the sprint in the same sport (25:01.3). Norway also went on to win the team competition in the HS109/4×5-km relay (Espen Bjørnstad, Schmid, Jørgen Gråbak, Riiber) in 50:15.5 for 481 points. Schmid and Riiber teamed up for a silver in the Team Sprint HS130/2×7.5-km relay (28:37.7, 244.6 points).
Lundby spearheaded an impressive Norwegian women’s ski-jumping team. Lundby won an individual gold medal, and Norway won the bronze in the team competition (with Anna Odine Strøm, Ingebjørg Saglien Bråten, Silje Opseth) and mixed team (with Strøm, Robert Johansson, Andreas Stjernen).
The only disappointment in the Championship as a whole was the men’s ski-jumping team. They went home without any medals.
The FIS Nordic World Ski Championships is a biennial Nordic skiing event organized by the International Ski Federation (FIS). Events include Nordic skiing’s three disciplines: cross-country skiing, ski jumping, and Nordic combined.
This article originally appeared in the March 22, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.