Petter Northug was back on the front pages of most Norwegian newspapers on Monday, but for all the right reasons this time. The skier who performed badly last season and then crashed in a driving drunk spree ended up taking home four gold medals, while Norway itself celebrated its best Nordic World Ski Championships ever.
Competition ended on Sunday with Northug pulling off another breathtaking performance in the toughest event of them all, the men’s 50 kilometer ski race. Northug was rather far behind at one point and didn’t look like he was over-exerting himself, but then he powered himself into the stadium at Falun in Sweden and won after all.
He skied 50 kilometers (30 miles) in two hours, 26 minutes and two seconds, longer than the times when he’s won the event before in 2011, at the Olympics in 2010 and at the world championships in 2009. He spent just two hours, five minutes and 35 seconds skiing a 50K classic race at the Olympics in Vancouver, for example.
But Northug was faster than anyone else in Falun and the victory topped a week of sweet revenge for the skier who was literally down in the dumps last spring. For once, Northug admitted to being speechless himself, while the superlatives rolled in from his rivals and fans alike, that he’s proven himself as Norway’s greatest skier of all time.
Norwegian athletes dominated the competition, winning more than half of all gold medals on offer and ending the championships with another victory for skier Therese Johaug and a gold medal for the Norwegian men’s ski-jumping team on Saturday. All told, it was a “fantastic” world championships for Norway, bolstered by four silver medals and five bronze medals.
Northug himself was exhausted when it was all over, skipping the victory parties on Sunday to quietly leave Falun and fly home to Trondheim. It was also a quieter, less boastful Northug who had appeared in Falun. After his drunk-driving scandal last year, he spoke warmly of skiing with “the flag on my chest” and had some advice to new professional skiers: “You have to love your sport and the job you have. It’s a tough job, with a lot of training. It’s all about training hard, staying focused and trying to reach your goals.”