Norwegian skier Petter Northug, who’s been in the news all week because of a new conflict with Norway’s national ski federation (Norges Skiforbund), didn’t make the debut expected of him when he raced for the first time this season at a national event at Gålå. He finished 17th, while one of his fellow Norwegians excelled at the World Cup opener in Ruka, Finland.
Northug, whose coaches had claimed was in great shape, finished nearly 90 seconds behind Anders Gløersen, who won the 15-kilometer race at Gålå. Northug had been relegated to Gålå after ski federation officials dropped him from those allowed to compete in Finland. That infuriated Northug, who opted to mock the officials on social media earlier this week.
Asked whether Northug’s poor placement means ski team chief Vidar Løfshus had been correct in excluding Northug from the World Cup opener, Løfshus told state broadcaster “no, absolutely not,” claiming that the Gålå race was viewed as a mere “training event” for Northug. He will be allowed to compete at next weekend’s World Cup even in Lillehammer.
One of teammates, meanwhile, left all other skiers in the snowdust at Ruka. Johannes Høsflot Klæbo, age 21, outclassed everyone in the men’s sprint final, confirming his role as among the best of the new generation of skiers on the international circuit. His time of just two minutes 48.19 seconds was a minute-35 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Pål Golberg, also of Norway, and fully four minutes ahead of third-place finisher Calle Halfvarsson of Sweden. “Earlier it was Petter Northug who shocked the world’s elite,” said NRK’s commentator Jann Post. “Now they’re getting a new shock.”
The Norwegian women’s ski team didn’t do nearly as well on Friday. Five of the seven women competing in the preliminaries didn’t even reach the finals, including such skiing stars as Heidi Weng, Marit Bjorgen and Maiken Caspersen Falla. Their collectively poor performance was blamed largely on their skis, which were waxed for conditions other than the snow that began to fall heavily just before the race began. Knut Nystad, who’s in charge of preparing their skis, apologized profusely. Bjørgen seemed to take the fiasco in stride, telling NRK that “something like this can just happen, conditions were challenging.”