Winter sports wrap-up

Norwegians still strong but not always on top

Michael Kleiner
Business and Sports Editor
The Norwegian American

Winter Sports Wrap-up

Photo: Beate Oma Dahle / NTB
Flags in hand, fans were out en masse at Holmenkollen in Oslo on March 10 to cheer on their favorite competitors at the cross-country skiing World Cup.

It was another big year for Norway in winter sports. The men’s cross-country skiing, men’s and women’s biathlon, men’s and women’s nordic combined carried the Norwegian flag, with five overall World Cup champions, three overall silvers, three overall bronzes, seven first-place, six second-place, five third-place discipline winners; one team win; one second-place team, and two relay winners.

Over in speed skating, there was one World Cup champion and a second in a team discipline.

Next season, cross-country, Nordic combined, and ski-jumping athletes will be highly motivated. The 2025 World Championships, Feb. 26–March 9, will be hosted by Trondheim for the first time since 1997. The facility at Granåsen is getting a makeover for it all.

It will be important to keep an eye on the Trondheim/Trøndelag region, a hotbed for skiing and home to many of Norway’s cross-country start skiers and Nordic combined competitors. The excitement is mounting….

Men’s Cross Country

Harald Østberg Amundsen, 25, won his first World Cup title with 2,654 points, placing first in distance, fifth in sprint, with 10 podiums (3-3-4), leading a procession of five Norwegians in the top 5 of the standings (Johannes Høsflot Klæbo, Erik Valnes (#2 Sprint), Pål Golberg (#3 Distance) and Martin Løwstrøm Nyenget (#4 Distance). Yet, the story focused on Klæbo. His season started with a spat with the Norwegian Ski Federation settled, then he contracted COVID, delaying the start of his season until the end of January, and then the flu kept him out of the Tour de Ski. He won his last seven individual races, and 12 of the last 15. He won another Crystal Globe in Sprint and was second in Distance and trailed Amundsen by 54 points in the WC table. He reached the podium 18 times (16-1-1). At Holmenkollen on March 10, Klæbo led a Norwegian sweep of the top five places in the 50km; at Drammen, Norway, March 12, he led a sweep of the Sprint, and in the season finale at Falun, Sweden, won the Sprint Classic, 10km Individual Start Classic (6 Norwegians in top 8), and 20km Mass Start Freestyle (4 Norwegians in top 6). At 27, he has 84 career podiums and could catch record-holder Bjørn Dæhlie (112).

Winter Sports Wrap-up

Photo: Terje Pedersen / NTB
Harald Østberg Amundsen won his first World Cup title in cross-country skiing, but again, the sport was dominated by teammate Johannes Høsflot Klæbo.

Women’s Cross Country

American Jessie Diggins, 32, won the World Cup with 2,746 points, first in Distance, 5th in Sprint, and reached the podium 12 times (6-2-4). She outscored Swedes Linn Svahn (#1 Sprint) by 175 points and Frida Karlsson by 437 pts. Heidi Weng, 32, was the top Norwegian finisher at 8th (#6 Distance) with 6 podiums (0-3-3). There were some promising performances. Kristine Stavås Skistad, 25, won the last two sprint races of the season beating Svahn both times to finish the campaign 14th overall, 2nd in Sprint, with 11 podiums (5-3-3) to lead the team. Lotta Udnes Weng, 27, had 3 podiums (1-1-1), was 23rd overall, (#19 Distance); Astrid Øyre Slind, 36, didn’t have any podiums, but was 11th in Distance; Kristin Austgulen Fosnæs, 23, was 24th, (#20 Distance); Margrethe Bergane, 22, 26th (#17 Distance), Mathilde Myhrvold, 25, 27th (#11 Sprint, 1 podium), and Anne Kjersti Kalvå, 31, 22nd in Distance (1 podium).

Men’s Biathlon

Johannes Thingnes Bø dominates his sport. The 30-year-old won his second straight World Cup title and fifth in six years with 1,262 points, and was first in the Individual, Mass Start and Pursuit, and second in Sprint. He’s accrued 12 discipline globes in his career. This season, he stood on the podium 24 times (16-4-4) for a career total of 151 (102-25-24). Norway owned the five top spots and six in the top 7 of the WC table. JTB’s brother, Tarjei, 35, had one of his best seasons and finished second (1,080; #1 Sprint; #2 Individual; #3 Pursuit; #4 Mass Start), followed by Johannes Dale-Skjevdal, 26, (949; #7 Sprint; #9 Individual; #2 Pursuit; #2 Mass Start), Sturla Holm Lægrid, 27, (862; #3 Sprint; #4 Individual; #5 Pursuit; #8 Mass Start), Vetle Sjåstad Christensen, 31, (817; #9 Sprint; #5 Individual; #8 Pursuit; #3 Mass Start) and Endre Strømsheim, 26, in 6th (700; #13 Sprint; #10 Individual; #6 Pursuit; #17 Mass Start). Norway won the Relay by 120 points and the Nations Cup by 1,066 points, both over Germany.

Johannes Thingnes Bø

Photo: Java Parsa / NTB
Johannes Thingnes Bø won his second straight World Cup title in biathlon.

Women’s Biathlon

Ingrid Landmark Tandrevold, 27, was in position to win the World Cup, after finishing second in the 7.5km Sprint, March 8, and being on the winning 4x6km relay, March 9 at Soldier Hollow, Utah. Then, Tandrevold finished 11th in the 10km pursuit at Solider Hollow; 17th in the 7.5km Sprint, 19th in the 10km Pursuit and 8th in the 12.5km Mass Start March 14-17 in Canmore, Canada. Italy’s Lisa Vittozzi took the globe with 1,091 points, followed by France’s Lou Jeanmonnot (1,068) and Tandrevold (1,044). Tandrevold finished first in the Sprint, 2nd in the Individual, 5th in Pursuit, 7th in Mass Start. There is some optimism for Norway as

Karoline Offigstad Knotten, 29, finished 9th (629; #8 Sprint; #10 Individual; #9 Pursuit; #16 Mass Start) and Juni Arnekleiv, 25, placed 13th (492; #17 Sprint; #11 Individual; #13 Pursuit; #8 Mass Start). Norway was tops in the relay and second to France in the Nations Cup.

Men’s Nordic Combined

Jarl Magnus Riiber, 26, won his fifth World Cup championship in six years with 1,870 points and was the top jumper and 9th best skier. He had a career high 19 podiums, including a career best 16 golds, and three silvers. At Holmenkollen, March 9-10, Riiber won both Gundersen Large Hill HS134/10km competitions. In the first he had a jump of 135.0m, the best jump by 6 meters, and 142.6 points, 19.4 better than Austrian Johannes Lamparter. Riiber beat Lamparter in the cross-country race by 1:28.6. In the second event, Riiber jumped 134.5m, 3 meters better than Lamparter, received 136.5 points, 7.6 better than Lamparter, last year’s champion. Riiber won the 10K by 1:10.6 and remains undefeated at Holmenkollen. A knee injury kept him on the sidelines in the finale at Trondheim. Jørgen Graabak, 32, finished 4th in the WC table, the 6th best skier, 7th best jumper, and stood on the podium 9 times (0-4-5). Jens Lurås Oftebro, 23, finished 6th, the second best skier, with 3 podiums (1-1-1).

Nordic Combined World Cup champs

Photo: Ole Martin Wold / NTB
Nordic Combined World Cup champs Jarl Magnus Riiber, Stefan Rettenegger, and Johannes Lamparter enjoy their time on the podium in Granåsen, Norway.

Women’s Nordic Combined

Gyda Westvold Hansen had a 19-straight gold medal finishes streak, then finished third on Jan. 13, but lost to teammates Mari Leinan Lund and Ida Marie Hagen. Then, the 23-year-old Hagen took control of the season. Over the next 12 competitions, she won 9 gold, capturing the last 5 events, 2 gold and one 4th. She finished with 15 podiums (9-6-0) and as World Cup champion. Hagen finished with 1,440 pts and was ranked as the best skier and third-best jumper. The podium usually included some combination of the three Norwegians. Hansen, 21, followed Hagen in the WC standings with 1,280 points, just 160 points behind Hagen. Hansen was the best jumper and third among skiers. She had more podiums this season than previous campaigns with 13 (4-3-6). Then, came Mari Leinan Lund, 24, in 3rd with 1,044 points and ranked second in jumping. She went to the podium 10 times (2-2-4). Sister, Marte Leinan Lund, 22, was 13th and the fourth best skier.

Men’s Ski Jumping

It was not a good year for the Norwegian ski jumpers. Halvor Egner Granerud, 27, who won the World Cup in 2021 and 2023, finished 24th with just 1 podium, after 41 podiums the three previous years (25-13-3). He had only 6 other performances below 10th place. Johann Andre Forfang was the top Norwegian, finishing 8th, with Marius Lindvik 9th. Forfang, 28, had only 3 podiums (2-0-1), the one gold at Holmenkollen March 10, the bronze coming in the Flying HS240, March 22 at Planica, Slovenia, and he teamed with Robert Johansson, 34, Benjamin Østvold, 23, and Lindvik, 25, for bronze in Team Flying HS240 at Planica, March 23. Lindvik, who was third in the WC in 2022, had 2 podiums (0-1-1) this season. Kristoffer Eriksen Sundal, 23, was 21st (3 podiums, 0-1-2, silver at Holmenkollen, March 9); Johansson, 34, 29th (2 podiums, 0-0-2); Daniel-André Tande, 30, (1 podium 0-0-1).

Women’s Ski Jumping

The women also had some struggles but there was a bright spot in Eirin Maria Kvindal, 22, who finished 7th, with 10 podiums (3-2-5) and won Raw Air (with tournaments at Holmenkollen, Trondheim, Vikersund), beating out teammate Silje Opseth, 24, by 152 points and Austrian star Eva Pinkelnig, 35, by 155.5. World Cup champion 19-year-old Slovenian sensation Nika Prevc was 5th. Kvindal won at Holmenollen March 11, at Trondheim March 12, at Vikersund, March 17 (Opseth 2nd), was 2nd at Trondheim March 13, 3rd at Homenkollen, March 9 (Opseth 1st). Opseth was 11th in the standings and had just 3 podiums this season (2-1-0) after 18 the previous four years, and finishing 4th (2021), 6th (2022) and 7th (2023) in the table. Thea Minyan Bjørseth, 20, was 14th. Anna Odine Strøm had a sensational 2022-2023 season, finishing 4th in the table with 10 podiums (3-4-3), but this season, finished 31st with no podiums.

Men’s Alpine

Henrik Kristoffersen, 29, slipped into 4th, earning 4th in GS, 6th in Slalom, but only 3 podiums (0-1-2). Kristoffersen has 76 medals (30-32-24) in his 11 seasons. The silver came in the Giant Slalom, Feb. 24 at Palisades Tahoe, Olympic Valley, Calif., +0.12 behind Odermatt. The bronzes came in Slalom March 3 at Aspen, Col., and Jan. 14 at Wengen, Switzerland. The day before at Wengen fellow Norwegian Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, 31, crashed in the Downhill and didn’t compete the rest of the season. He had 6 podiums at the time. Kilde won the World Cup in 2019-2020 and was second in 2021-2022 and 2022-2023. Norwegians occupied the 7th (Timon Haugan), 12th (Atle Lie McGrath), 13th (Alexander Steen Olsen) and 14th places (Kilde) in the overall table. Haugan, 27, was 3rd in Slalom with 3 podiums; McGrath, 23, was 8th in Giant Slalom with 3 podiums; Olsen was 6th in GS with 1 podium.

Women’s Alpine

Ragnhild Mowinckel, 31, announced in late February that she would retire at the end of the season. Her final campaign had her finish 11th in the World Cup standings, 8th in Super-G, 12th in Downhill, 13th in Giant Slalom and one podium, a gold in the Downhill at Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, Jan. 27. In five seasons, she had 14 podiums (4-6-4). Taking the torch is Kajsa Vickhoff Lie, 25, who was 14th overall, 5th in Super-G, 16th in Downhill, 3 podiums (0-2-1), two of which came in Austria. In the next-to-last event of the season, March 22 at Saalbach, Lie took bronze in Super-G, finishing +0.30 behind gold medalist Ester Ledecka (Czech Republic), +0.02 behind silver-medalist Federica Brignone (Italy). Mowinckel was 8th. She took silver in Super-G Jan. 12 at Altenmarkt-Zauchensee, Austria. Her other silver was in Super-G Dec. 17 at Val d’Isere, France. The Alpine top 3 were Lara Gut-Behrami (Switzerland), Brignone, and Mikaela Shiffrin (United States).

Men’s Speed Skating

The Norwegian men showed some promise. At the World All-Around and Sprint Championships at Inzell, Germany, March 7-10, Håvard Holmefjord Lorentzen finished 5th in the Sprint after the two 500m and two 1,000m races, +0.48 shy of bronze. For the season, Lorentzen finished 5th in the 1,000m. Bjørn Magnussen was a surprise 4th in the second 500m race, +0.27 short of first, after placing 12th in the first 500m race, where he finished in the season table. In the 5,000m All-Around, Norway placed three in the top six, Sander Eitrem (3rd, personal best 6:07.9), Hallgeir Engebråten 5th, Sverre Lunde Pedersen 6th, while in the 1,500m All-Around, it was three in the top 8, Pedersen 4th, Engebråten 6th, Eitrem 8th. Engebråten was 3rd (PB 12:55.42) and Eitrem 4th (PB 12:56.22) in the 10,000m All-Around. In the All-Around standings (500m, 5,000m, 1,500m, 10,000m to determine best all-around skater) Engebråten was 3rd, Eitrem 4th, Pedersen 7th (American Jordan Stolz was 1st). In the season standings, Engebråten was 4th in 1,500m, Peder Kongshaug 7th. There were five Norwegians in the top 14 in Long Distances, led by Engebråten (4th) and Pedersen (6th). Norway was 2nd in Team Pursuit, 5th in Team Sprint.

Women’s Speed Skating

Unfortunately, the Norwegian women skaters’ success is pretty much Ragne Wiklund. At Inzell, the 23-year-old Wiklund placed sixth in the All-Around standings (500m, 3,000m, 1,500m, 5,000m) with a combined time of 159.492, +22.24 behind first. The Dutch swept the top three spots. Wiklund was 2nd in the 5,000m (6:53.51) and 3rd in 3,000m (3:58.29). The next Norwegian in the All-Around was 17th. Wiklund did capture the season title in Long Distances. The Dutch captured 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and 13th spots, the next Norwegian was 24th.

Ragne Wiklund

Photo: Vincent Jannink / ANP / NTB
Ragne Wiklund led the way in Norwegian women’s speed skating.

Men’s Snowboarding

It was the Americans flying high. Alex Ferreira, 29, Alexander Hall, 25, and Mac Forehand, 22, swept the top three spots in the standings. Ferreira was tops in Half-Pipe with 5 podiums (5-0-0), Hall was 1st in Big Air, 2nd in Slopestyle with 4 podiums (3-0-1), and Forehand was 1st in Slopestyle, 5th in Big Air, with 4 podiums (2-2-0). Fourth place went to Switzerland’s Andri Ragettli, 25, of Switzerland, 2nd in Big Air, 3rd in Slopestyle. That pushed defending champion, 23-year-old Norwegian Birk Ruud to 5th place, 4th in both Big Air and Slopestyle with 3 podiums (1-0-2). Norwegians Sebastian Schjerve, 24, is 12th with 2 podiums (0-1-1), and Tormod Frostad, 21, is 13th with 1 podium (0-1-0).

Women’s Snowboarding

Sandra Eie, 28, was 16th overall, 4th in Big Air with 1 podium (0-1-0). Mathilde Gremaud (Switzerland), 24 took the first-place trophy, with firsts in Slopestyle and Big Air and 9 podiums (6-3-0), followed by Ailing Eileen Gu, 20, (China) with first in Halfpipe and 6 podiums (4-2-0), and Tess Ledeux, 22, (France), 2nd in Slopestyle and Big Air with 5 podiums (3-2-0).

This article originally appeared in the April 2024 issue of The Norwegian American.

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Michael Kleiner

Michael Kleiner, business and sports editor, has more than three decades of experience as an award-winning journalist and public relations professional. He has operated his own PR and web design business for small businesses, authors and community organizations in Philadelphia since 1999. Not of Norwegian descent, he lived in Norway for a year with his family at age 11 and has returned as an adult. He is the author of a memoir, Beyond the Cold: An American’s Warm Portrait of Norway, and a member of NorCham Philadelphia. Visit Kleinerprweb.com; beyondthecold.com.