UPDATED: Norwegian cross-country champion Petter Northug ended this year’s professional skiing season in grand style by winning the overall World Cup but now will be forced to take at least some time off when he heads in for some minor knee surgery. There’s still snow in the mountains, though, and his program for the next few weeks looked ambitious.
Northug was plagued by pain in his knee during this past winter, even though it didn’t interfere too much with his performance during competition. Often referred to as “Petter the Great” in the media, he could join the elite group this year who have won the combined World Cup more than once, and even he was moved by it. The only Norwegians to do it before him were Oddvar Brå and Bjørn Dæhlie.
“This is wonderful, I felt relief when I crossed the finish line,” Northug said after winning the final, decisive race at the last World Cup event of the season at Falun in Sweden last month. Northug is best known for more of a “bad boy” image; somewhat arrogant, sarcastic and cynical. But when the Norwegian national anthem was played with Northug on the podium, there was a visible tear in his eye.
After that he headed home to Trøndelag, where he lives with his brother Tomas, also a professional skier. He didn’t take part in the Norwegian Championships because of a cold, but he did ski in the Monsterbakken 2013 uphill race as Vassfjellet on Thursday, where he claims it was confirmed that he wasn’t in good shape “after lying on the sofa” with his cold and painful knee. Northug ended up in eighth place.
NRK reported last week that he’d undergo surgery on his knee in Trondheim on Tuesday, an operation that his national ski team coach Trond Nystad said would allow him to “train well” during the off-season and return in good shape for the next skiing season. An earlier knee injury meant he couldn’t run as much as he should last year. He was expected to be back training within a week.
On Monday, however, Norwegian media outlets were reporting that the operation was postponed until after the summer, because Northug didn’t want to miss out on skiing in the annual Skarverennet in the high mountains from Frinse to Ustaoset this weekend. “That’s news to me,” Nystad told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Sunday. “But it is minor surgery, so minor that Petter is arranging this himself.” Northug told NRK that postponing it “is better for all involved.”
Northug had also been planning to take part in the Bakkeløpet Røldal Opp race on Sunday and in a roller-ski race in Oslo sponsored by magazine Vi Menn on May 24, where his rival Russian skier Alexander Legkov is also due to participate. Then there are various public appearances at conferences and meetings plus a gathering of the national team in the mountains of Sognefjellet in early June. Northug’s doctors likely would have had some say in how much of all this he’d be able to move forward with after his surgery. It never interfered with his plans, though, to once again take part in some poker tournaments in Las Vegas this summer.
May be beaten by Carlsen
Amidst all the hype at the end of ski season, though, came news that Northug may see at least his sponsorship income beaten by that of fellow Norwegian Magnus Carlsen, ranked tops in the world in chess. Carlsen, who recently won yet another tournament that means he’ll play for the World Chess Championships in November, is likely to attract even more sponsors on an international basis, according to Jacob Lund, former sponsor chief at Norway’s biggest bank, DNB.
“The market value of Carlsen is already high today, but if he chooses to capitalize on his standing, it can mean a lot of money,” Lund told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) recently. Lund noted that chess has around 600 million players around the world, lots more than in skiing.
“If Carlsen beats the current world champion Vishy Anand, it will be one of the biggest victories in Norwegian sports history,” Lund said. “Much bigger than Northug’s. Our skiing stars are active in a national sport. When Carlsen plays chess, the whole world follows along.”
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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