Winter is coming …
The 2020-2021 sports preview
JO CHRISTIAN WELDINGH
Winter is coming, and most Norwegians cannot wait to welcome their winter sports heroes back to the slopes. Last season was shortened because of COVID-19, but the 2020-2021 season is about to begin. Here is a quick look at which Norwegian winter sports athletes to keep an eye out for in the season to come.
Johannes Høsflot Klæbo from Trøndelag is only in his fifth season as a senior, but he won every single sprint he participated in last season. Coming into this season, he is said to have focused on improving his capacity in the longer races as well. The young Russian Alexander Bolshunov will probably be Klæbo’s biggest rival for the overall World Cup title.
There were seven Norwegians in the top 12 of the World Cup standings: Pål Golberg (3rd), Simen Hegstad Krüger (4th), Sjur Røthe (5th), Hans Christer Holund (7th), Emil Iversen (9th), and Erik Valnes (12th).
Therese Johaug made an amazing comeback in 2018-2019 after her two-year suspension. She continued her dominance last season, winning all races she participated in, including three gold medals in the world championship, and earned her second straight World Cup title by 811 points over teammate Heidi Weng. She is said to be in even better shape this year. Johuag might get some competition from some of the up-and-coming Swedish skiers, especially Frida Karlsson. Like the men, there’s a lot of depth, as Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen (4th), Ingvild Flugstad Østberg (5th), and Tiril Udnes Weng (13th) finished among the top 13 in the World Cup standings.
The Cross-Country Skiing World Cup schedule was set to begin on Nov. 27 in Ruka, Finland.
Henrik Kristoffersen was the world’s second-best slalom and giant slalom skier for several years, but he is often beaten by Austrian skiing magician Marcel Hirscher. Kristoffersen is known for his skill in slalom and giant slalom. Hirscher retired after the 2018-19 season. Kristoffersen was third in the overall standings last year.
Kjetil Jansrud and Aleksander Aamodt Kilde are always fighting for a place on the podium in downhill and super-G. Jansrud (8th overall last year) won the downhill gold medal in the 2019 world championship and has won five Olympic medals in total, while Kilde won the overall World Cup last season. They are both seen as strong contenders for the overall World Cup.
Ragnhild Mowinckel became the winningest women’s Norwegian alpine skier in history when she took home two silver medals from the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. The same year, she won a world championship bronze medal in alpine combined. She was out with a knee injury last season but is expected to come back strong this year.
The alpine skiing season started with a giant slalom race in Sölden, Switzerland, in October, where young Norwegian Lucas Braathen took home his first ever World Cup victory. He is probably not strong enough in the other disciplines to compete for the overall World Cup title, but with a little luck, he might be a contender for the slalom cup.
Johannes Thingnes Bø won three Olympic medals in PyeongChang and three medals in last season’s world championship. He has won the World Cup two years in a row and is expected to dominate the biathlon for several years. His exceptional speed around the tracks are his greatest strength as a biathlete. Norway had five biathletes in the top 12 of the standings: Johannes’ brother, Tarjei Bø (4th), Johannes Dale (9th), Vetle Sjåstad Christiansen (10th) and Erlend Bjøntegaard (12th).
Tiril Eckhoff had her best World cup season last year, finishing second in the overall World Cup, only seven points behind the world’s No. 1, Dorothea Wierer from Italy. If Eckhoff can stabilize her level of performance at a high level, especially on the shooting performance, she might be fighting for the title this year, too. Teammates Marte Olsbu Røiseland was fifth and Ingrid Landmark Tandrevold seventh in the overall Cup standings.
The biathlon season begins Nov. 28 in Kontiolahti, Finland.
Jarl Magnus Riiber won 14 out of 17 races last winter and celebrated his overall World Cup victory in the middle of February. He is expected to dominate the sport for the next decade. Teammates Jørgen Gråbak was second, Jens Lurås Oftebro fourth, and Espen Bjørnstad sixth.
Nordic Combined was set to start Nov. 26-29 in Ruku.
Maren Lundby has been the world’s No. 1 women’s ski jumper for several years. She won the gold medal in both the 2018 Olympics and the 2019 world championship and the World Cup last season. She is expected to continue her dominance this season.
The men’s ski jumping team does not have one single athlete expected to compete for the overall World Cup, but since they all perform at a reasonably high level, they are usually among the favorites to win the team competitions spread throughout the season.
The ski jumpers were set to start their season Nov. 20 in Wisla, Poland.
This article originally appeared in the Nov. 27, 2020, issue of The Norwegian American.