Norway’s phenomenal downhill racer Jesper Saltvik Pedersen could come home to Norway with no less than four new gold medals around his neck plus a bronze. His winning streak at the World Para Alpine Ski Championships at Espot in Spain last week was described by Norway’s national ski federation as simply “fantastic.”
Pedersen had every reason to grin from ear to ear after another triumphant performance. He started out winning bronze in the Super-G and then won the super combined, downhill, grand slalom and slalom races.
“There was high tempo and swings but I did what I should and am satisfied,” Pedersen said after his third gold medal in as many days. He’d also already won all 10 of this season’s World Cup events, too.
The 23-year-old athlete was born with spina bifida and is lame from the waist down, but has been active in sports all his life. He grew up in the coastal town of Åkrehamn on the island of Karmøy, but it only took a few hours to drive up to the mountains where he started sit-skiing as a child.
Pedersen also played handball and football (soccer), but has excelled in the winter sports arena and also won four gold medals and a silver at the last Paralympics in 2022. He was the only athlete with so much gold, and he knew his late father would have been proud.
It was his dad, also an athlete, who was Pedersen’s biggest fan but he died of a heart attack in November 2020, at the age of just 51. Pedersen told magazine KK last year that “sorrow is a special thing” and that he now skis fast “with him in my thoughts, and to make him proud.”
Pedersen, who’s also close to his mother who often travels with him, gives his father credit “for where I am today.” The elder Pedersen had taken him skiing from the age of two. “Mama and papa never put any limits on me, but did everything in the right way,” Pedersen said. “I’ve had parents who took me out and taught me to see opportunities and solutions.”
Pedersen moved to Oslo in 2019, to study and be able to more easily train with other athletes at Norway’s athletics academy and his team at what’s called Olympiatoppen. They’re proud of him, too, and two other team members also did well at the World Championships, Magnus Valø Balche and Marcus Graasto Nilsson.