Holmenkollen drew Olympic stars

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UPDATED: Winter sports stars gathered in Oslo over the weekend for the annual Holmenkollen Ski Festival. One of them was attracting more attention, and not just because of his carefully waxed moustache.

Norwegian ski jumper Robert Johansson is known for his moustache, but he’s overcome some major challenges, too. PHOTO: Norges Idrettsforbund

Ski jumper Robert Johansson won individual bronze medals and team gold at the Olympics in South Korea, and then came home to win the King’s Cup as Norwegian national champion on Holmenkollen’s biggest jump. On Saturday, he contributed to winning another World Cup victory for Norway’s men’s ski-jumping team.

Just a few years ago, though, the young man from Lillehammer wasn’t sure he’d ever jump again. Newspaper Aftenposten reported how, just before he won fame and glory in ski flying at Vikersund in the 2015-16 season, Johansson struggled mightily with illness. He’d suffered injury, pneumonia and then a mystical ailment that caused his face to puff up.

First his right cheek swelled up early in 2015, before eventually returning to normal. Then the same thing happened with his left cheek. Doctors were baffled. He admitted to Aftenposten that he was scared.

“I went to doctors and specialists, none of whom had any clarification,” Johansson told Aftenposten. At one point the swelling was so acute that he couldn’t see his own ear in the mirror, and he had a high fever of 40.1C.

‘Raw Air’ begins
After lots of rest and sleep, his face returned to normal and he decided against retiring from ski jumping. Then he had his big breakthrough at Vikersund and set a world record in ski flying last year with a jump of 252 meters. His motivation soared, he was chosen for the Olympic team and the rest is history.

He’ll be back in action this weekend, moustache in place, as the Nordic champions compete again in World Cup action. For the ski jumpers, it will launch a week of competition called “Raw Air,” while competition for the cross-country skiers began earlier this week with races in Drammen, both won by Norwegians.

They all look set to avoid the famous fog that can often settle over Holmenkollen in March. State meteorologists were reporting mostly sunny weather on Saturday and Sunday, before snow starts falling again Sunday afternoon. Combined ski jumping and racing will take place Saturday, along with the men’s 50-kilometer race and team ski jumping. On Sunday the women ski jumpers will take over with a women’s 30-kilometer race scheduled as well.

Ragnhild Mowinckel won her first World Cup race on Friday, in the giant slalom. PHOTO: Norges Idrettsforbund

World Cup action was also getting underway this weekend at Kvitfjell north of Lillehammer, site of the men’s downhill in the 1994 Winter Olympics. Norwegian alpine stars Kjetil Jansrud and Aksel Lund Svindal are among those  competing at Kvitfjell, while the women are in Germany, at Ofterschwang, where Ragnhild Mowinckel won her first World Cup race in giant slalom.

Mowinckel was ecstatic: “This is just fantastic, a dream I’ve always had,” said the young woman who also won gold at the Olympics last month and silver as well. The skier from Molde finished ahead of Viktoria Rebensburg of Germany and Mikaela Shiffrin of the US.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund