Olympic alpine star turned TV star

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Kjetil André Aamodt could enjoy his first weekend off in a few weeks after the Olympics finally ended last week. After spending many years hurtling down steep slopes as the alpine skiing star that he was, Aamodt suddenly found himself a TV star for spending every evening during the Olympics in a studio for state broadcaster NRK.

Former Olympic skier and World Champion Kjetil André Aamodt, interviewing the head of the Norwegian men's curling team, Pål Trulsen, for state broadcaster NRK's nightly show during the Winter Olympics in Sochi. PHOTO: NRK screen grab/newsinenglish.no

Former Olympic skier and World Champion Kjetil André Aamodt, interviewing the head of the Norwegian men’s curling team, Pål Trulsen, for state broadcaster NRK’s nightly show during the Winter Olympics in Sochi. PHOTO: NRK screen grab/newsinenglish.no

It’s been a few years now since Kjetil André Aamodt was regularly claiming Olympic medals himself as he fearlessly flew down the slopes. He won a total of 20 medals in both the Olympics and World Championships before “retiring” at an age of 36 in 2007.

That same year he was awarded one of the Norwegian capital’s highest honours, the St Halvard medal, for “representing Norway and Oslo in an outstanding manner.” He was also named a UNICEF ambassador and eventually started giving speeches about his experiences on the racing circuit, running a racing school and taking on other representative roles within the sports world.

He also started up doing television commentary, which is what led to Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) nabbing him to co-host a nightly Olympic wrap-up of the day’s events along with NRK sports commentator Anne Rimmen. She’s a TV personality. Aamodt got into it purely because of his expertise on the slopes. He’d be asked questions about his opinions on how various other skiers performed, and he’d answer.

Kjetil André Aamodt with co-host Anne Rimmen on NRK's nightly show during the Olympics. They pulled in higher ratings than Norway's official Olympic broadcaster TV2. PHOTO: NRK screen grab / newsinenglish.no

Kjetil André Aamodt with co-host Anne Rimmen on NRK’s nightly show during the Olympics. They pulled in higher ratings than Norway’s official Olympic broadcaster TV2. PHOTO: NRK screen grab / newsinenglish.no

He did so well, and seemed so natural on air, that NRK asked him to co-host the nightly show in prime time with Rimmen, not least because NRK had lost the rights to air the Olympics themselves for the first time ever. The state broadcaster was outbid by Norway’s national commercial station TV2, leaving NRK a bit adrift. Aamodt was called in to give NRK’s “consolation” broadcasts some credibility and appeal.

It worked. NRK’s “OL-kveld (evening)” won higher ratings than Olympic broadcaster TV2 itself and Aamodt got high marks for being a knowledgable, poised TV host. It’s likely some of the high-profile guests and athletes on the show agreed to appear because they’d be talking with Aamodt. Ratings soared.

Now it’s all over, but Aamodt clearly has carved out a new career path for himself should be choose to follow it. In the meantime, he admitted to newspaper Dagsavisen recently that he actually has become a bit of a home-body, and most enjoys just being at home with his long-time sweetheart and wife Stine Østvold, a dancer at the Norwegian Opera, and their children Erle (age eight) and Axel (age four). They live in a waterfront house on Oslo’s fashionable Bygdøy peninsula, but Aamodt told Dagsavisen that he regularly proposes that they move back to Oslo’s more working-class east side where he grew up: “It happens that I say to my wife, ‘this here (affluent life on Oslo’s west side) can’t continue. We have to move over to the east side.” It hasn’t happened yet. Østvold grew up in the western suburb of Bærum, so living on Bygdøy means they’ve met half-way.

Aamodt says he has fond memories of his childhood growing up in a modest flat at Lambertseter in Oslo. His parents, Finn and Gerd, were teenagers themselves when they had Kjetil and his older sister Ann-Kristin but they formed a close family unit and Finn, still a coach at the highest levels of Norwegian athletics, had the kids up early and late training on the ski slopes. Finn Aamodt believed that systematic training would lead to good results, even from the age of seven. “Folks thought we were crazy,” wrote Kjetil André Aamodt in his autobiography, but he proved his father was right.

The family also had little money, and often (against the rules) shared the same lift ticket at ski resorts. If it was possible to drive up to the top of a ski run, they did, to save the price of a ticket, or they climbed up. During one training session at the Norwegian resort of Beitostølen, they ran out of money for food. The kids found a 50-kroner note, providing some nourishment for the family. Young Kjetil André told his mother once that, “if I ever get rich, at least I’ll make sure there’s food in the refrigerator.” He told Dagsavisen that some of those hungry moments from childhood still affect his live today: “As long as I have money for food, I’m really happy. I like to live and eat well, otherwise I really don’t spend a lot of money.”

He’s careful to note that he chose to go along with his father’s strict training regime. “He saw that I was really geared to do it,” Aamodt said. “I don’t think you can really force kids to do something they don’t want to do. But you can help them achieve their dreams.”

He achieved his and moreso, but isn’t pushing his own two children. He says he’s a playful father and he didn’t really like working every single day and night at NRK during the Olympics. “Sometimes I just want to drop everything and just be home with the kids and also keep training,” he told Dagsavisen.

He said he thinks men “need a woman in their lives who put up some opposition and correct us now and then. Otherwise men can be very egocentric. I think women see the more important values in life than men, like paying attention to the here and now, seeing the joy of watching the kids grow up, not being so flighty.”

Aamodt, who spent so many years traveling all around the globe on the World Cup circuit and skiing and winning in the Olympics, said his life now is mostly spent with the children, tidying the house, watching the evening news. And that, he thinks is “just super.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund