Leif Kristian Haugen, age 29, has been skiing for Norway on the World Cup circuit for eight years and finally won a place on the winners’ podium Friday – at the World Championships in St Moritz, no less. He howled with joy at the finish line.
Haugen won the bronze medal in Friday’s grand slalom race at the alpine skiing world championships that wrap up on Sunday. He told state broadcaster NRK that he’d slept poorly the night before and was nervous, landing in seventh place after the first round.
But then he sailed down the slope and around the gates so fast that he sailed up to third place, right behind Marcel Hirscher and Roland Leitinger of Austria. Hirscher took the gold, while Norway’s much-hyped Henrik Kristoffersen placed fourth.
It has otherwise been a disappointing alpine world championships for Norway, after Axel Lund Sundvall had to drop out because of injury and then Kjetil Jansrud got sick and had to drop out as well. Not before Jansrud won a silver medal in the downhill, but before he otherwise would have left.
“Ahhhhh, Leif Haugen,” Jansrud wrote on social media. “Bless you.” He called Haugen’s medal the “most deserved” in the entire championships. Haugen himself was thrilled, as were his parents, his wife and eight-month-old baby Olav.
“I really don’t know what to say,” Haugen told NRK after he’d finishing howling. “It’s surreal to be standing here now and talking about a World Championship medal. This is wild, but great.”