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Saturday, April 20, 2024

Jumping for joy over World Cup(s)

Anders Bardal, who’s been ski jumping for the Norwegian national men’s team since 2001, finally won his first overall World Cup during the weekend after 11 years of trying. Norwegian cross-country ski racer Marit Bjørgen, on the other hand, brought home her third World Cup victory after also winning a string of World Championships and Olympic gold medals. Downhill racer Aksel Lund Svindal did the same.

Anders Bardal won his first overall World Cup on Sunday. PHOTO: International Ski Federation

Perhaps that’s why Bardal got a bit more attention in Norwegian media when this season’s World Cup season ended on Sunday. Bardal has had a completely different career than Bjørgen and Svindal, and it was his turn to bask in the limelight.

There’s no question it’s a big year for Bardal. He’ll turn 30 in August, he’s about to become a father again for the second time, and now he’s won the World Cup. Yet Bardal was the first to admit that his actual performance at the World Cup finals in Planica wasn’t anything to brag about, when he landed in 23rd place after ski-flying 177 meters. It was his combined performance over the entire season that earned him his big, globally shaped trophy.

“I have experienced bigger days, like when my daughter was born,” Bardal told hometown newspaper Adresseavisen in Trondheim. “But this is clearly the biggest day in my jumping career.”

Bardal’s victory also marked only the third time that a Norwegian ski jumper won the overall World Cup. The last time was in 1994, when Espen Bredesen claimed the trophy, seven years after Vegard Opaas won it in 1987. Like Bredesen, Bardal tackled lots of setbacks: It took Bardal seven years to win his first World Cup qualifier, in 2008.

Marit Bjørgen, meanwhile, also had her share of disappointing seasons before powering forward in advance of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Since then she’s seemed virtually unbeatable, following up her five Olympic medals (three of them in gold) by becoming undisputed queen of last year’s Nordic World Championships in Oslo. She claimed four gold medals and one silver there, and went on to have a great World Cup season this year.

At the finals in Falun, Sweden over the weekend, she proved that she’s the best female cross-country skier in the world. Her arch rival, Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland, performed admirably as well, but not as well as Bjørgen and she ended up fourth on Sunday, behind Bjørgen, Maiken Caspersen Falla of Sweden and Therese Johaug, also of Norway.

Both Bjørgen and Bardal intended to celebrate and relax a bit now, as did downhill racer Aksel Lund Svindal, who claimed the season’s World Cup in the Super-G last last week. Svindal won the downhill race on Wednesday and then clinched the Super-G title for a third time, admitting he was “very lucky” because key rival Beat Feuz of Switzerland lost his balance and slid off the course at Schladming in Austria. Some other rivals had a bad day, too.

It was Svindal’s seventh overall World Cup victory, as he needed to make space for yet another of the crystal globes. The cash Svindal, Bardal and Bjørgen has earned during the season will come in handy as well, with Bardal chuckling that his roughly million kroner “is safely deposited in the bank.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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