Ski racer signs back on again

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Henrik Kristoffersen, the young Norwegian slalom skiing star who ran afoul of Norway’s national ski team, has signed on for a new season after all. He won’t be able to train with the team, however, until after October 1.

Henrik Kristoffersen will be skiing for the national ski team again this season, and competing in both the World Cup and Olympics, after a turbulent year of conflicts. PHOTO: Norges Skiforbundet

Kristoffersen’s signing means he will be able to compete in both the World Cup and the upcoming Winter Olympics. Claus Ryste, sports chief for the alpine skiing team within Norway’s national skiing federation, confirmed to state broadcaster NRK o Monday that Kristoffersen had signed a new contract to ski with the national team.

It has been thrown into doubt because of various conflicts between Kristoffersen and the ski federaton over his sponsorship contracts and other disciplinary issues. Kristoffersen wants to be free to accept lucrative individual sponsorships with, for example, drinks producer Red Bull, while being a member of the national team means he must be satisfied with his share of earnings from team sponsors.

“We must grapple with the challenges we have and work with them,” Ryste told NRK, but added that they’ve found “a good solution for Norwegian alpine skiing. Now we look forward to the goal and hope to be a powerful team this season.”

That means some of the world’s best slalom racers will compete for Norway in both the World Cup and the Olympics in South Korea. “It feels great to have a new national team agreement in place, so that I can focus all my energy on bringing (rival) Marcel Hirscher down from his throne this season,” Kristoffersen said. He claimed he was “unconditionally glad” that he could still be part of the national team, claiming that it has “the best support apparatus and competitive milieu.”

Not everything has been forgiven. NRK reported earlier this year that Kristoffersen allegedly broke internal disciplinary regulations and sponsor rules repeatedly last season, and received several warnings last November. At a meeting this spring, at least 10 of the country’s athletics organizations were informed that other alpine team members didn’t want Kristoffersen on the team. Kristoffersen must, as a result, finance his own training from now until October 1.

Now the national skiing federation (Skiforbundet) intends to try “building bridges” between Kristoffersen and the other national ski team members. NRK reported that the federation has hired in psychologist Tom Henning Øvrebø to lead an internal team-building process, with meetings set for August and September.

“We’ll use this time as part of a process so that he can fully return from October 1,” Ryste said. Henriksen also said he will do what he can “to show my best sides, even better.” Berglund