Norwegian sports fans were torn during the weekend among the annual Birkebeiner ski race in Lillehammer, World Cup competition at Holmenkollen in Oslo and even the launch of the football season. After a surprising snowfall that began Friday, the sun finally came out and so did thousands of fans and participants at all the major events.
Around 34,000 tickets were sold to the events at Holmenkollen and thousands more could turn up for free, courtesy of their Skiforeningen (ski association) membership cards. With all the volunteers, athletes, their support staff and even members of the royal family, the crowd created the so-called folkefest (people’s party) that organizers so badly wanted.
Last year had been a huge disappointment at Holmenkollen, when organizers jacked up ticket prices so high that folks simply didn’t show up. This year things were planned differently, with lower prices, better food, a dedicated children’s play area, shopping stalls and a transport system that functioned well and got spectators to the events on time. The weather cleared up, the mood was festive and international, yet rooted in Norwegian skiing traditions, from the knickers and retro sweaters to the clanging cow bells and Norwegian flags.
For more photos from Holmenkollen Sunday, see our photo feature here.
There was plenty of cheering at Holmenkollen Sunday morning, when Norway’s Therese Johaug won the women’s 30-kilometer race by a wide margin, skiing the course in just one hour, 21 minutes and 17 seconds. That allowed her to triumphantly carry the Norwegian flag into the stadium and impulsively threw herself into the arms of spectators King Harald V and Queen Sonja once again. (external link, in Norwegian, but click on the arrow to see the video of the royal hugs). The large crowd of fans from Poland could also cheer, when their cross-country queen Justyna Kowalczyk placed second in the tough race. Julia Tsjekaleva of Russia was third, just ahead of Norway’s Heidi Weng.
The Polish fans could cheer again later in the day, when their ski jumper Piotr Zyla tied for first place with Gregor Sclierenzauer of Austria. It was the first time such a tie had occurred at Holmenkollen, and also the first time the women ski jumpers competed on the same big jump on the same day as the men. Sarah Hendrickson of the US won the women’s World Cup finale.
The Norwegian ski jumpers didn’t do so well at Holmenkollen on Sunday, with Anders Jacobsen the best in 5th place. Nor did their counterparts do well in the combined portion of competition on Saturday, when Magnus Moan finished as the best Norwegian in 12th place, way behind first-place winner Jason Lamy Chappuis of France. Erik Frenzel of Germany was second and Wilhelm Denifl of Austria was third. Moan was fifth in the World Cup final overall (after Frenzel, Chappuis and Akito Watabe of Japan) but told newspaper Aftenposten that he hopes Norway’s combined skiers and cross-country racers will be able to train more together instead of individually next season. “We need to be more homogenous as a team,” Moan said.
Norwegian cross country racer Petter Northug also failed to hit the winners’ platform in the men’s 50-kilometer race on Saturday, losing to Alexander Legkov of Russia, who placed first. Northug’s teammate Martin Johnserud Sundby was second and Ilja Tjhernousov of Russia was third. Northug, though, remains second in the overall World Cup competition for the season, with the final competitions due to take place in Sweden starting on Wednesday.
Aukland and Boner won Birkebeiner
Meanwhile, a bit farther north in Lillehammer on Saturday, another three Norwegians climbed the winners’ platform after the 54-kilometer Birkebeiner race over the mountains from Rena. Anders Aukland won the race in two hours, 42 minutes and 38 seconds, ahead of favourite Eldar Rønning, who was just 13 seconds behind, and Espen Harald Bjerke (2:43:02). Anders’ brother Jørgen Aukland, who won the prestigious Vasalöppet race in Sweden earlier this season, was fourth.
Seraina Boner of Italy was the fastest woman to ski the 54-kilometer (32-mile) Birkebeiner course, in three hours, nine minutes and 12 seconds. Jenny Hansson of Sweden was second, eight seconds behind, and Laila Kveli of Nroway was third, with a time of three hours, 18 minutes.
While all the ski races were culminating the winter sports season in Norway, some football clubs literally had to scrape snow off their playing fields as the top league (Tippeliga) opened their season on a relatively early date. Play began with a surprise upset, as Viking of Sandefjord beat last year’s champions Molde. Other clubs facing off on Sunday included Lillestrøm vs Sarpsborg 08 (2-2), Sogndal vs Tromsø (2-2), Strømsgodset vs Sandnes (2-0), and Odd Grenland vs Rosenborg (0-1) and Start (Kristiansand) vs Hønefoss (3.2).
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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