New conflict hits men’s ski team

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Norway’s men’s alpine ski team is dealing with another conflict, after all the members of its health care staff filed a complaint about head coach Christian Mitter. They claim his leadership style is so tough that they’re all threatening to quit.

Christian Mitter is the subject of a new conflict within Norway’s men’s alpine skiing team. PHOTO: Olympiatoppen

Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported Tuesday that Mitter is accused of ridiculing and freezing out staff, while also issuing sharp reprimands in front of others.  He allegedly makes it clear he’s in charge, and they’ve had enough of his alleged harassment.

The health care staff including two doctors and six physical therapists reportedly sent a three-page letter to both the management of the men’s alpine ski team and Norway’s skiing federation (Norges Skiforbund) on February 22, just after the World Championships. NRK reported that the letter was also sent to Norway’s state labour authority, Arbeidstilsynet.

The letter stated that “unfortunately, several members of the health team are about to quit, and report that the behavour of Mitter is a major factor in their decision. If the situation doesn’t change, more will probably quit.” The health care staff also wrote that there was “general concern” for the working environment around the ski team, and that they were worried about the other coaches and service personnel.

“Mitter undoubtedly has some strong qualities as a skiing coach and organizer, but in our eyes his philosophy about handling colleages is so unfortunate that his central leadership position should be questioned,” the letter stated. A recurring complaint was over how Mitter has a habit of yelling at colleagues.

Takes complaint ‘seriously’
Mitter, who’s originally from Austria, sent a written response to NRK, in which he stated that he was aware that a complaint had been filed “against me and my leadership and form of communication.” He wrote that he takes the “feedback” seriously and that he must first “find out more” about the nature of complaints, and go through them “in a constructive manner.” He declined further comment at present.

Ski team boss Clause Ryste, who hired Mitter as coach of the men’s national alpine team in 2015 after they’d worked together at a top ski school in Dønski, declined comment on “internal relations” within the team. He added, however, that “I think we will resolve this in a good manner.”

Dr Ellen Moen of the health care staff told NRK that they’re all sorry their complaint has gone public in the media, and that they seek a “thorough internal process” to deal with it.

Support from Svindal
Newspaper Aftenposten has reported that Mitter was the skiers’ “first choice” for the head coach role when he was hired in 2015. He’d earlier coached the women’s team but was let go for alleged financial reasons and said he was “fed up” with Norway until Ryste brought him back.

Among his supporters at the time was downhill racing star Aksel Lund Svindal, who claimed Mitter had “clear authority” that he personally liked. “If you’re the boss, you should be so confident with the knowledge you have that you give very clear messages,” Svindal told Aftenposten. “I want folks who stand up for what they believe and dare to be challenged, just like I like to be challeged.” Svindal went on to say that no one should create conflicts, “but being shy of conflicts isn’t a good quality for a boss.”

Mitter is certainly at the center of conflict now, the latest in a series involving finances and slalom skier Henrik Kristoffersen’s lawsuit against the skiing federation over its refusal to let him sport the logo of a personal sponsor on his helmet. Both sides are awaiting a verdict on the issue from the Oslo County Court.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund