Norway’s bad boy of skiing, Petter Northug, has been duly warned: His return this week to the national ski team must not be jeopardized either by bad behaviour or spending too much time training at high altitude.
“There’s no doubt he drove himself hard at high altitudes,” Northug’s new coach, Arild Monsen, told state broadcaster NRK. “I’ve heard that it was perhaps too hard. It takes a long time for the body to recover from that, and it postpones the good shape you want to be in.”
Northug, in addition to offending teammates and national team officials with snide remarks on social media and famously driving while drunk and crashing a sponsor’s car, also trained vigorously before the ski season began both this past year and the year before. He didn’t gain anything from it, getting sick instead and plagued by respiratory ailments that ruined his racing performance. Northug didn’t even qualify for Norway’s Olympic team this past winter.
Now he’s showing good form again and appears determined to make a serious comeback next season. On Monday it was announced that he’ll rejoin the national sprint team even though Monsen claims he’s been “a bit stupid” the past few years, also a time when he put his private sponsorship interests above the national team’s.
“Petter must have a sensible program for his pre-season training and not be over-eager and think everything can happen from May,” Monsen claimed. “He must be sensible and train well. He can’t afford another setback from high-altitude training for a third year in a row.”
Monsen will be taking over as Northug’s coach from the one he’d hired personally, Stig Rune Kveen. Northug himself thinks he can become as good as he once was.
“I know what I can do,” Northug told reporters at a press conference earlier this week. “First and foremost I’m glad to be back. I see this as a fun and exciting challenge. There are other guys here like me, and I think that we together can become strong heading into next season.”