Norway’s Petter Northug celebrated confirmation of his status as the world’s best cross-country skier on Sunday by accepting some public accolades, but then shifting to dry clothes, getting in a car and driving six hours home to Trøndelag. That’s apparently where the most important party awaited.
Northug won, as expected, the men’s overall cross-country skiing World Cup in Falun, Sweden. He beat everybody, during several days of competition, and even took time to accept flags and shake hands with some fans while skiing to his last finish line of the season. Nervous Norwegian coaches worried that Maurice Manificat of France was coming up behind Northug, but the confident young man remained just that.
“I had control,” Northug told newspaper Aftenposten afterwards. “If he’d gone ahead of me, it would only have been a few pole pushes before I would have taken over again.”
Clutching his sought-after crystal World Cup globe, Northug could finally relax, if that’s possible for the driven, often emotional skier. He achieved his goal of winning the World Cup, plus a couple Olympic gold medals. It turned out to be a successful season, to put it mildly, after some earlier controversies over his sponsorships, his behaviour and, at one point, an erratic performance.
On Sunday he was cheered by the Swedes who criticized him earlier, he signed hundreds of autographs, posed for innumerable photos and accepted hundreds of congratulations. But he declined to attend the International Skiing Federation’s victory banquet, other victory parties or even female teammate Marit Bjørgen’s 30th birthday party. He wanted to go home.
“There’s sure to be a party there,” he said as he got in the car driven by adviser and friend Hallgeir Martin Lundemo.
There will be some other fun before hard training takes over again in the build-up to next season. Northug has agreed to take part in his sponsor Red Bull’s event in Davos next month, and he’ll play poker and compete on roller skis in Las Vegas later this spring. That’s organized by another controversial sponsor, the magazine Vi Menn (We men), known for photos of scantily clad women.
Northug was still thinking business, though, as he got into the car, reported Aftenposten. “I have to get stronger, so I can handle the uphills even better,” he said. Next year’s Nordic World Championships will be held in Oslo, and he’s determined to win again. The new season, he notes, “is just around the corner.”