The recent alpine skiing World Championships seemed to end on a slightly sour note for Norway last weekend, after confirmation that skier Henrik Kristoffersen had stirred up more bad feelings within the men’s ski team. He won a long-sought gold medal in the grand slalom, but also had landed in so much conflict with the team’s coach that the coach quit just before the championships began. Now Kristoffersen will be training alone, not with his ski teammates, for the rest of the season.
“I want to give the best skiers as good a training milieu as possible,” team chief Christian Mitter told newspaper Dagbladet this week. “But for us, it’s also important to build up a good team. We must try to build up the team, stand together and be better together.”
Kristoffersen has long been what Mitter calls “a challenge” for the team. The young man from Rælingen who now lives abroad has a history of conflicts not just with coaches but also with the team and Norway’s national ski federation. He launched a lengthy legal battle against the federation when he wasn’t allowed to feature a private sponsor on his helmet or caps. In 2016 he demanded NOK 15 million from the ski federation in compensation. In 2017 he was banned from all national team gatherings for several months for “disciplinary reasons.” He eventually rejoined the after some “reconciliation meetings.”
On Tuesday, Norway’s alpine skiing manager Claus Ryste told state broadcaster NRK that Kristoffersen isn’t banned from the team, but he won’t be training with other team members. “Given all the conflicts, it’s best for all parties to focus on training work and carrying out the rest of the season,” Ryste said. Sending Kristoffersen out on his own with his father Lars as his long-term coach “is the best solution,” Ryste told NRK.
The latest conflict erupted between Kristoffersen and team coach Stefan Kornberger, who quit in frustration just before the World Championships began.
“It’s problematic and sad that we lost our technical trainer for the whole team,” skier Rasmus Windingstad told NRK. He confirmed to NRK that the conflict between Kristoffersen and Kornberg had a “negative effect” on the entire team.
“He (Kornberger) is a good man, and it of course affected us as we headed into the World Championships at Åre (Sweden),” Windingstad said. “There was less individual training in the run-up. Fortunately we have a very good team, so we managed to get by.”
They did indeed, with Norwegians winning two gold medals, one silver and one bronze. One of the gold medals, in the men’s downhill, went to the popular Kjetil Jansrud, who finished just ahead of the even more popular Aksel Lund Svindal, who took silver in the final race of his career.
The other gold medal was claimed a few days later by Kristoffersen, but it didn’t stir up as much jubilation. NRK reported that attempts to reach either Kristoffersen or his father Lars for comment were unsuccessful. Ruster told NRK that “we don’t want to focus on what has happened, but find good solutions for the future. And we’ll take a proper evaluation of ourselves and each other after the season ends.”