Norway’s new wonderboy in skiing, Johannes Høsflot Klæbo, was heading home before the Winter Olympics end this weekend. The 21-year-old sensation on skis decided not to race in the men’s tough 50-kilometer race on Saturday, admitting that his three Olympic gold medals had drained him of energy.
“After I recovered from the race yesterday (the men’s team sprint, which he won with Martin Johnsrud Sundby) I realized that I’d had enough,” Klæbo told reporters in South Korea. “It costs a lot to race on skis.”
State broadcaster NRK reported that in order to go what Norwegians call the femmila (literally five Norwegian miles of 10 kilometers each), Klæbo realized he needed to be “top-motivated, and there are others who are more motivated than me.”
Giving up his spot
Klæbo thus gave up his spot on the Norwegian men’s team. It was filled by Emil Iversen. Other Norwegian skiers confirmed to race in what’s often called an ultimate test of strength include Sundby, Niklas Dyrhaug and Hans Christer Holund.
Klæbo had earlier said he would take part and remain in South Korea for the duration of a Winter Olympics that’s already gone down in history as Norway’s best ever. He changed his mind after he said he’d slept poorly Wednesday night “and knew that hell was breaking loose.” He said it felt good to have made a decision.
“I put pressure on myself, but now I have done what I wanted to do in OL (what Norwegians call the Olympics), and then I ran out of steam,” he told NRK. “My head doesn’t want any more right now.”
After finishing 10th in the men’s 30-kilometer skiathlon shortly after the games began, Klæbo won gold medals in the classic sprint, the men’s relay and the team sprint. “He could have fought for the gold medal (in the 50-kilometer race) also,” said teammate Dyrhaug. “It’s a big thing to give up your spot when you don’t feel you’re 100 percent mentally prepared. It shows what a good person he is, not everyone would have done that.”
National men’s skiing coach Tor Arne Hetland accepted Klæbo’s decision. “He sat down at the breakfast table this morning and had thought things through during the night,” Hetland told NRK. “He found out that enough’s enough.” Hetland was still hoping,, though, for more medals in the men’s last competition.
“It’s been a fantastic OL up to now for the men’s national skiing team,” Hetland said. He called the 50K race “an exercise the guys who will race have looked forward to for a long time. We’ll see if we have enough fire power left on the last day.”