Norway’s new slalom star Henrik Kristoffersen has had to tolerate claims that he’s greedy and not acting like a team player, after a sponsorship conflict with the country’s skiing federation landed in an Oslo courtroom this fall. At least a temporary verdict is expected this week, and in the meantime, Kristoffersen finally skied to victory at a World Cup race in Val d’Isere.
Kristoffersen had the best time in the final run and thereby won his first victory of the season, which has been marred by the sponsorship conflict. He beat everyone including Marcel Hirscher of Austria, who placed second, and Alexander Khorosjilov of Russia, in third place.
Kristoffersen admitted his emotions “ran over” after he crossed the finish line on Sunday. “It was my first slalom run and there’s no doubt it’s been a few tough months,” Kristoffersen told news bureau NTB, “but now I managed to show what I can do. It’s incredibly wonderful.”
He said he “felt good from before the start” of the race, and that it was good “for my head to get some relief from the pressure of Saturday (when he had a disappointing performance in the first run of the grand slalom but still ended up in third place and on the winners’ platform).”
Kristoffersen said he was prepared for negative reaction because of his lawsuit against the skiing federation, which hasn’t allowed him to have an individual sponsorship with the energy drink Red Bull. Kristoffersen wants to ski with the “Red Bull” logo on his cap and helmet, and cash in on the offer that he has from Red Bull, but not the rest of the team. “I’ll quote (cross country skier) Petter Northug: ‘Haters gonna hate,'” Kristoffersen told NTB. “I’ll just step on the gas and be even better.”
Claims officials favour cross-country over alpine
The case went into a pre-trial session earlier this month, in an affort to settle whether Kristoffersen can ski with the Red Bull logo pending a full trial. Kristoffersen claims he’s free to do so, while the skiing federation objects. After two days in court, the judge took arguments under advisement and was due to issue a ruling this week. Kristoffersen was thus still skiing this weekend with just the team sponsor Telenor’s logo on his helmet.
“I have no prediction for the ruling,” Kristoffersen said. “The only thing I know is that I’ll keep fighting regardless.” He noted how the alpine committee of the skiing federation had approved his deal and he also wants the skiing federation to approve it. “It’s a (sponsorship) agreement that will benefit everyone (including teammates, who’ll get a share of his private sponsorship income),” Kristoffersen claimed.
Kristoffersen told other non-Norwegian reporters who lacked background in the case that “politicians” and top officials in the skiing federation had rejected what he called a reasonable sponsorship agreement. “I think they’re only interested in power and cross-country (not alpine) skiing,” Kristoffersen said. Skiing federation officials declined comment pending the court’s decision.