Downhill racer Aksel Lund Svindal took three medals at the Olympics in Vancouver, one of them in gold, and clearly won a place in Norwegians’ hearts as well. He topped a popularity ranking back home, emerging as by far the best-liked of all Norwegian athletes.
Svindal is a handsome, articulate, 27-year-old alpine skier who seems as comfortable in front of a microphone as he is on the mountain. He readily answered reporters’ questions, quickly congratulated his rivals and generally emerged as the “true gentleman” among Olympic athletes.
Newspaper Aftenposten reported over the weekend that a survey conducted by Sponsor Insight, a sports marketing and media firm, showed that 26 percent of Norwegians questioned said they liked Svindal best, followed by 18 percent for biathlon star Ole Einar Bjørndalen, 12 percent for cross country skier Marit Bjørgen and 6 percent for her colleague, Petter Northug.
Norway’s curling team, which attracted lots of publicity over their checkered trousers at the Games, was best-liked by 5 percent, and skier Emil Hegle Svendsen by 4 percent.
“The reason is that Svindal is always smiling, and there are never any conflicts attached to him,” Thomas Heiberg Johansen of Sponsor Insight told Aftenposten. He thinks Svindal is viewed as “sympathetic” and “a good role model.”
Svindal was back in action at Kvitfjell in Norway over the weekend and heads for Garmisch-Partenkirchen for more World Cup competition this week.