Norway’s young slalom skiing star Henrik Kristoffersen was so angry over his relatively poor performance in the alpine world championships this weekend that he threw down his ski poles and trounced out of the finish area. His behaviour was already a matter of debate back home, not least among those who accuse Kristoffersen of undermining the entire Norwegian support system for top athletes.
Kristoffersen was favoured to win gold at the World Championships in St Moritz, first in the giant slalom on Friday and then in the slalom on Sunday. He didn’t even make the winners’ platform, though, landing in the aggravating fourth place in both events.
The 22-year-old was not pleased, and he swore and yelled and refused to talk to reporters. He ended up a full 1.04 seconds behind the winner, Marcel Hirscher of Austria, a virtual eternity in the fast sport of alpine skiing. Another Austrian, Manuel Feller, won the silver and Felix Neureuther of Germany took the bronze.
Kristoffersen later returned, wearing dark sunglasses, and told state broadcaster NRK that “I was angry right afterwards, but I hope folks can understand that. I can talk more calmly now, at least, and not say so many stupid things.”
The entire world championships was a disappointment for Kristoffersen, also to Norway’s two other injured and sick skiers Aksel Lund Svindal and Kjetil Jansrud. Only Norwegian downhill racer Leif Kristian Haugen came home with a medal in slalom, a bronze, on Friday.
Some of Kristoffersen’s teammates said they hoped his lack of medals wouldn’t “take the wind out of the balloon for him.” Others didn’t seem to care. Kristoffersen has been a target of criticism in Norway for suing the national skiing federation for the right to have his own lucrative sponsor agreement with Red Bull instead of only those sponsorships negotiated for everyone on the team.
Aslak Sira Myhre, a sports fan who also heads Norway’s national library, wrote in newspaper Dagsavisen last week that Kristoffersen is all but biting the hand that feeds him. Myhre pointed out that Kristoffersen and his coach-father appear “completely unwilling to follow the rules that apply for Norwegian skiers on the national team and for Norwegian athletics in general. He’s using laywers to undermine the Norwegian sports movement.”
Kristoffersen has already been accused of being greedy, putting himself above the team and not caring about the traditional support system for athletes that’s based on volunteer work, some state funding and commercial endorsements for the team, not individuals. Like cross-country skier Petter Northug, the Kristoffersens, Myhre claimed, are willing to sacrifice the Norwegian national ski team in order to “collect millions of kroner annually. Kristoffersen and Northug can talk about their sports dedication, their training programs … but in the end, it’s the money they fight for.”
Kristoffersen thus couldn’t expect a whole lot of sympathy from fans at home. “They’re gutting the system that has created them,” Myhre wrote. Kristoffersen, however, claimed he was already looking forward to the next World Cup competition, and would seek revenge.