A group of three students at Norway’s prestigious business school Norges Handelshøyskole (NHH) created the altered photos of national ski team officials that disgruntled skier Petter Northug posted on social media to mock them. Now they’re unhappy that their stunt is causing more problems for Northug, who’s reportedly “far down in the dumps” after the officials didn’t choose him to compete at the cross-country World Cup opener in Finland this weekend.
“We hoped that a humouous tone would be a good way to reach the national team’s leaders,” one of the students and avid sports fan, William Brekke, told media magazine Kampanje. He said they were all tired of watching how the national ski federation has treated Northug, holding him back from competition on several occasions. They put together what they considered photographic teasing of the ski team leaders, sent it to Northug and he published it on Instagram.
“Now it looks like the ski team’s leadership has missed the mark again, by turning this into a personnel matter,” Brekke said. Federation officials later denied they would take disciplinary action against Northug over the stunt, but would have a “dialogue” with him about the rules he needs to play by when on the national team. He’d officially rejoined the team on Monday after another off-season spent training on his own because of earlier disputes over sponsorships.
For Northug, the worst possible punishment is being excluded from competition. He feels he’s in great shape, even though he missed last weekend’s opening competition in Norway because of illness, and he badly wanted to ski in the World Cup opener. Now it’s unclear whether he’ll compete in another event at home in Norway instead, or opt for more training in advance of the next World Cup races at Lillehammer in early December. Northug himself is staying firmly out of the public eye, at least for now.