Norway’s ski boy wonder
Family: Mother Hilde; father Lars; and brother Magnus, 17
Lives: Raelingen, Norway
Starts the day with: Oatmeal
Always pack: Passport, wallet, mobile, laptop, and ski boots
Favourite ski slope: Marikollen and Reiterarm
Favourite hobbies: Motocross, climbing, watching TV
Favourite TV shows: Entourage, Game of Thrones, Suits
Favourite food: Anything with meat
Favourite restaurant: Døgnvill Bar & Burger, Oslo
Motto: ”It’s not about luck, it’s about what you do”
The World Cup alpine ski season is very much under way, and with the World Championships just around the corner, competition is fierce. But so too is Norway’s newest star of the slopes, Henrik Kristoffersen.
Last season he stood on the world cup podium six times, while this season he took his first win in the season’s second race at Levi in Finland.
Even though he’s smallish – 179 cm and 73 kg – and barely out of his teens, Kristoffersen has become a clear threat to the world’s elite skiers.
“I’ve always been the smallest skier, so I have heard all kinds of nicknames; ‘the little lad’, ‘little brother’, and ‘the asparagus with a rocket engine’,” Kristoffersen says with a laugh.
He’s an easy-going guy and laughs come easily to him, making people around him smile. But when he puts on the skis, Kristofferson turns into an extremely serious and disciplined competitor. Everything has to be perfect.
“I’m not heavy or strong, so I have to be technically better than others,” he says.
“He seems to push a button and switch into race mode. Henrik races aggressively and he always races to win,” says Christian Mitter, coach of the Norwegian ski team.
Off the slopes “the little lad” is a just a regular lad, one who sleeps, surfs the web, and watches too much TV, the coach adds.
The first time he strapped on skis, at Marikollen in Raelingen, Norway, Kristofferson was only four years old. Since then, he has spent thousands of hours training, won countless medals in junior races, and is now a member of Norway’s World Cup ski team in slalom and giant slalom.
While Kristoffersen seems happy-go-lucky, it takes a lot of character to endure the tough training regime one faces to get to the top.
“Success isn’t a product of luck – training makes all the difference. There are no secrets or shortcuts, but the feeling I get when I make a great run makes it worth it,” says Kristoffersen.
“The gap between winning and losing is so narrow. We talk about hundredths of a second, making the distance between heaven and hell very short. A poor finish is mentally tough, but there’s nothing I can do except try harder and train more,” he says.
Even with an Olympic bronze medal, Kristoffersen says his biggest triumph was his first World cup win in Schladming in January 2014.
“When 50,000 people come to see the race, the atmosphere and feeling around the event are special. It reminded me of how big a sport this is,” he says.
With almost 250 days on the road, the team becomes a close-knit group. That said, Kristoffersen admits to not being a team player at all.
“I hate to lose. If I lose to a teammate I go crazy,” Henrik says, laughing, but seconds later adds that he has calmed down a bit lately.
‘With 250 travel days a year, my favourite place to fly to is home!’
Coach Mitter understands Kristoffersen perfectly.
“One should never settle for a sixth, eighth, or tenth place. We go for a win in every single race. Henrik will do anything to win. His focus and his capacity to hone his skills speed up his development. Right now he’s trying out different skis. He’ll choose the ones that will give him the best shot at winning, not the ones that are the most comfortable or the most fun to ski,” Mitter says.
This season, others expect Kristoffersen to take another step towards the top. And Kristoffersen expects that of himself.
“I take it one race at a time and focus on doing my best every run,” he says, repeating the mantra of all top athletes. This hides the fact that Kristoffersen desperately wants to become the world’s best slalom skier. A good start would be to beat Austrian Marcel Hirscher, who has three consecutive World Cup overall wins.
“And an Olympic gold medal wouldn’t be bad either,” Kristoffersen says.
Then he laughs again. Life is good.
Text: Sofia Zetterman
Published: March 17, 2015