Wins for Klæbo and Weng
Jo Christian Weldingh
Klæbo the overnight sensation
Johannes Høsflot Klæbo started out second in the finishing pursuit race of the mini-tour in the World Cup cross-country final in Falun, Sweden, March 18. Obviously tired after a long and impressive season, he was overtaken by no less than 23 skiers, ending up 25th, but still managed to win the overall World Cup. Russian Alexander Bolshunov won both the race and the mini-tour. At the age of 21, Klæbo is the youngest male skier to ever win the overall World Cup.
“It feels good being done with the season and it feels amazing winning the overall World Cup,” he told the press afterwards. “Standing here with ‘The Globe’ feels unreal.”
Klæbo, who was unknown to most Norwegians until last year’s breakthrough season, had a season surpassing both his own and everyone else’s expectations, winning three Olympic gold medals, the overall World Cup and the sprint cup. “My goal before the season was to win the sprint cup and ski fast in the Olympics. The season has surpassed my wildest expectations. It has been a fairy tale!”
Klæbo is looking forward to the start of the soccer season and traveling somewhere warm. “I have had to struggle to get through this weekend and I will probably spend the next day or two in bed.”
Three-time overall World Cup winner Martin Johnsrud Sundby, who finished third in the World Cup standings, can’t praise his teammate enough. “The most impressive thing about Johannes is what he is like as a human being,” he said. “The way he has handled his success this year is even more unique than his accomplishments. He is a unique person who is as great at taking care of others as he is at skiing.”
Despite flagging, Weng takes the cup
Klæbo wasn’t the only Norwegian to take home an overall World Cup trophy that Sunday. Heidi Weng secured her second consecutive World Cup trophy, despite finishing the season in less than peak condition. Weng, who dominated international cross-country skiing this season until the Olympics, came in 18th in the finishing pursuit race. Marit Bjørgen won the race in front of American Jessica Diggins.
“I am proud of myself even though I haven’t performed very well in a long while,” Weng said. “In a way, I feel like I don’t deserve the trophy, but at the same time I feel like I do. My first half of the season was very good.”
The season’s finish has been hard on Weng. She did not perform well during the Olympics and got sick during races in Drammen and Holmenkollen.
“My body has told me that it needs a break for a long time now,” she said with a smile. “Today, I decided to at least keep my head in the race, but I wasn’t able to do that either. I feel really lucky to have won the trophy this year.”
Weng won Tour de Ski earlier this year, but she still feels like the season was a disappointment. “I should have done things differently. I haven’t felt like myself after Tour de Ski and the pressure probably got to me heading into the Olympics,” she said.
Diggins had a great season finale and passed Ingvild Flugstad Østberg in the overall World Cup standings. Her second place is the best placement ever for an American cross-country-skier, male or female.
Sadie Bjornsen also had a great pursuit race, ending up in third place, making the podium 2-3 American.
Norwegian Maren Lundby captured ski jumping gold with jumps of 134 and 126 meters on March 11, her 13th World Cup win of the season. Among the men, Kamil Stoch of Poland won, with Norway’s Robert Johansson second.
In cross-country, Dario Cologna of Switzerland won a photo finish with Sundby in the 50km race on March 10. With 33.3km complete, six of the top 10 skiers were Norwegians—Hans Christer Holund led—and ten seconds separated first and 17th. With four km remaining, the pack was seven and remained that way into the last half lap. Cologna and Sundby sprinted the last 100 meters, Cologna barely stretching a ski over the line before Sundby.
Bjørgen rallied to win the women’s 30km mass start, her seventh career Holmenkollen victory, a women’s record. Diggins was second, becoming the first American woman to medal at Holmenkollen, Norway’s Ragnhild Haga was third, with Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen fourth and Østberg fifth. With 18.3km completeed, Bjørgen trailed the pacesetters by 32 seconds. At 27km, she trailed the leading trio by six seconds. With 1.5km left, she had caught up, then passed the three in the last kilometer and beat Diggins by 3.6 seconds.
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.