Northug already irritating many

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The season has just begun but Norway’s bad boy of skiing, Petter Northug, has already managed to annoy rivals and even his own sports bosses at home. After dominating the weekend’s first World Cup event, it’s clear that neither Northug’s expertise nor his cockiness has subsided over the summer.

Petter Northug, in a familiar pose during last winter's Nordic Skiing World Championships. PHOTO: Stian Broch/Oslo 2011

Northug seemed to easily beat all his rivals to the finish line at the World Cup opening at Sjusjøen both Saturday and Sunday. The Norwegian men’s relay team, with Northug running the important final leg, won gold in the 10-kilometer race on Saturday, followed by another gold in the classic relay on Sunday.

The Norwegian women’s relay teams also trounced their competition, winning gold both days. They’re so much better than all their other competitors that they could experiment with new team members and techniques, but coach Egil Kristiansen said he doesn’t want to take any chances. The relay team will continue to consist of Vibeke Skoftefud, Therese Johaug, Kristin Størmer Steira and Marit Bjørgen.

They win lots of cheers and admiration from spectators and rivals, while Northug drew criticism, first after literally thumbing his nose at his rivals when crossing the finish line on Sunday. He made it look so easy, and loves poking fun at his competitors, especially the Swedes. They didn’t appreciate his antics at the end of the race, with some sports commentators telling Northug in print that it was time for him to grow up.

Northug also drew the ire of some of Norway’s own sports elite when he told Norwegian media that his biggest goal this season was simply winning Tour de Ski in early January. After that, he claimed, the season would be over, as far as he was concerned.

That didn’t sit well with leaders of the men’s national ski team, who not so gently reminded Northug that he has a few other obligations later in the season as well. “That was a very crude remark,” Vidar Løfshus, chief of men’s cross-country skiing, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “But as I know Petter, and as we’ve communicated earlier, I think it will be very interesting for him to have a good World Cup as well.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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