Northug’s loss sets new goal

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After losing the prestigious Tour de Ski for the seventh time on Sunday, Norwegian skiing champ Petter Northug only seemed more determined than ever to win it next year. For Northug, a Tour de Ski victory will be more important than the Olympics.

Petter Northug failed to win the Tour de Ski here in 2010 and still can't claim a victory after this year's attempt either. Winning it is now his biggest goal for next hear. PHOTO: Wikipedia

Petter Northug failed to win the Tour de Ski here in 2010 and still can’t claim a victory after this year’s attempt either. Winning it is now his biggest goal for next hear. PHOTO: Wikipedia

“There’s a victory here that I’m lacking,” Northug told reporters after placing fourth when the gruelling, week-long Tour de Ski was over. Northug, who has won multiple gold medals in both the Olympics and the World Championships, badly wanted to win this year but lost to Aleksander Legkov, who placed first, and to Dario Cologna and Maxim Vylegzjanin who were second and third. Northug was fourth.

It was even his 27th birthday on Sunday, which would have seemed to be a good omen, but it didn’t help. Northug admitted he was “exhausted and dizzy” in the final tough uphills, and it was unseasonably warm. He’d cut off the legs and arms of his ski suit, but that didn’t help either.

Northug was disappointed and now has three goals ahead of him: Winning at the upcoming World Championships in Val di Fiemme next month, winning next year’s Tour de Ski and then doing well in the Winter Olympics in Russia in February 2014.

“Tour de Ski is the biggest goal,” he told newspaper Aftenposten. “That’s just the way it is. I just have to try again next year.” Since he has Olympic and World Championship gold, winning the Tour de Ski is all that’s missing.

Women did better
While Northug was disappointed, the Norwegian women’s ski team was much happier, with both Therese Johaug placing second and Kristin Størmer Steira placing third. The women’s Tour de Ski was won once again by Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland, who left most everyone else in the dust.

“But I’m happy with second place,” Johaug told reporters, and coach Egil Kristiansen was pleased, too. “We’ve never been so close to winning Tour de Ski,” he said. “So maybe next year.”

That’s when they all expect Norwegian champion Marit Bjørgen to be fully back in action. Bjørgen, who’d been a favourite to win this year’s Tour de Ski, had to drop it after suffering an abnormal heart rate just before Christmas. Doctors didn’t find anything wrong and she’s due to be back competing, at a World Cup event in France, in two weeks.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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