Slalom sensation offset biathlon woes

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“Thanks Mom! Thanks Dad! I’ll call home right away!” Those were among the first words from 19-year-old Norwegian alpine skier Henrik Kristoffersen when he faced the television cameras after becoming the youngest ever to win a medal in men’s alpine events at a Winter Olympics. His victory helped offset a bitter disappointment for Norway’s men’s biathlon relay team.

Kristoffersen renewed Norwegian spirits with a bronze medal that, like Kristin Størmer Steira’s earlier in the day, seemed “good as gold.” The young man from Rælingen in Romerike, just northeast of of Oslo, had been considered a new “Olympic comet” but placed 15th during the first phase of the men’s slalom on Saturday at the Winter Olympics in Sochi. His performance in the second phase, along with mistakes by many of his competitors, hurtled him suddenly into third.

“This is completely crazy,” Kristoffersen efused as Olympic broadcaster TV2’s cameras rolled. “Just crazy!” He turned in the second-best results in the second phase after already talking on the phone with his dad, who doubled as his coach for many years, after his first run.

Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) observed that the advice he received from his father “must have been very good,” because he ended up surpassing 14 other racers to wind up on the winners’ podium, which he shared with Mario Matt of Austria, who won the gold, and Marcel Hirscher, also of Austria, who won silver. Two other Norwegians did fairly well, too, with Sebastian-Foss Solevåg placing ninth and Leif Kristian Haugen 12th.

“I’m just really happy right now,” Kristoffersen told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “Half of this medal goes to mama and papa!”

His father told NRK that when his son also called home just before the second race of the day, though, “he was electrified.” He thought the course looked great, and thought he’d do well. He did. “I am very proud,” Lars Kristoffersen told NRK.

Biathlon blunder
Norwegian biathlon skier Emil Hegle Svendsen was anything but proud on Saturday. He blamed himself for spoiling the Norwegian biathlon relay team’s chances of winning another medal on Saturday, when many expected them to take gold.

Svendsen skied the last leg of the 4 x 7.5-kilometer race, after Norwegian teammates Tarjei and Johannes Bø and the legendary Ole Einar Bjørndalen had skied the first three. They led all the way. Svendsen is considered one of the best biathlon athletes in the world, in a sport that combines skiing and shooting, but he shot badly on Saturday, missing four out of eight. That forced a penalty round, and Norway ended up in fourth place, behind Russia, Germany and Austria.

“I’ve never seen him so down and disappointed,” Tarjei Bø told NRK. Bjørndalen was satisfied with his own performance, but felt badly for Svendsen.

“We’ll help him get over this,” Bjørndalen said. “He had a bad day, he is so much better. It’s terrible when this happens, and it’s not just yourself you think about but the three others. That’s what’s so tough.”

The loss, coupled with Russia’s victory, pushed Norway back down to second place in the medals race, after being on top following the Norwegian women who claimed all three medals in their 30-kilometer race earlier in the day.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund