It is barely four months since Thomas Alsgaard officially announced his retirement from international elite Cross-Country skiing. The victorious World Championship in Val Di Fiemme would be the last time we watched Thomas the way we will remember him, as the unchallenged Champion.
Daily training sessions have been part of his life since his early youth, not as a burden, but as a joy – The joy of being outside, the joy of developing, and improving a bit at a time. Algaard does however not second-guess his decision.
– I have not spent any time contemplating the decision. The decision was a long-term process, and I am accustomed to the idea that it is over. There is always a reason for quitting, Thomas tells langrenn.com.
– What is the real reason?
– It is about having had enough.
– After ending something that has been such a big part of your whole life, how does it feel now, – a large vacuum?
– The spring was no problem, pretty much alike what I did when being active. I then had a back operation, which made me take it easy anyhow. So, up until now I have not felt any “retirement problems”, but I assume it may feel a bit different come fall.
Thomas didn’t wait long pondering what to do after his active career. The director of the Norwegian Olympic Committee’s elite program immediately signed him up as a consultant to secure his unique experience. Lately he also started working in SportEvent, where he is a part owner. SportEvent sells events to the sponsor market. Additionally, he has ongoing agreements with equipment producers, such as Madshus, Toko and Yoko, who demands his presence.
– I made assumptions about lots of free time this spring, summer and fall. However, you get anxious about starting up something new. Maybe this is how athletes are, always needing something to do?
Thomas will also help other athletes achieve. The National Olympic Committee and Biathlon Federation have both been very eager to learn from him.
– The biathletes are very exited about a partnership. It is however not about me coming in to tell them what to do. I’ll attend one of their camps, ask some questions, then we’ll see if I can be of any help.
Alsgaard is therefore already busy with new projects, and continues to express that he still wants to be ambitious, also after his skiing career. After having had very specific goals to work towards, what is Thomas’ current goal? What does he dream about?
– It is easier to define clear goals in sports than in the business world, however I also want to say that my strongest “drive” in sports was not winning. It was rather the process, – to keep going, – to develop. These are also skills I can bring to the business world. The most important for me is however that I still want to enjoy what I’m doing.
Enjoyment has always been central in Thomas’ athletic career. To do enjoyable things, to train the way he liked and believed in, not necessarily the way others though he should. By setting enjoyment first, he has also de-mystified some of the life of elite athletes. Athletic achievements are much more complex than the ability to train the most, Thomas has shown.
– I have always listened to my body.
– In addition to your ability to enjoy your training and listen to your body, what are the reasons behind the amazing Cross-Country skier Thomas Alsgaard?
– It started early. I was lucky to have a mom and dad that taught me how to enjoy nature and being outside as a youth. Early I learned to become independent, and soon developed my own way of thinking, which has been critical for all my achievements. I have had the capability to do the right things in the right way.
That he grew up in Norway was also a critical factor.
– I was lucky growing up in Norway, especially thinking of the coaches that have helped me through the years, and the support system of the National Team. Had I for example grown up in Switzerland, I may not have become as good of an athlete.
– What do you believe is the most common mistake Cross-Country skiers do, preventing them from reaching the very top of their sport?
– Some, perhaps especially women, depend too much on the coach, and follow a pre-set program too closely. This way you never get “real” good.
Thomas has during the last few years also made headlines within another sport, rally cross. His achievements in this motorized arena have also been noticed.
– So far it has been just a hobby, but I’d like to learn more and see how far I can go with it in this country. Internationally the standard is too high. I am starting 20 years too late.
Alsgaard was one of the few current world-class elite skiers that made the elite level at a young age. This made him part of the international elite level for almost 10 years. The 10-year period where he made his impressions on will also be remembered as a time when Cross-Country ski racing changed. Alsgaard has watched this with some skepticism.
– I don’t like the recent development. During the 94 Lillehammer Olympics, only one individual event was won by the skier’s ability to sprint at the finish. This year at the World Championship in Val Di Fiemme, this was the case for four of the six events.
Alsgaard is of the opinion that the “market” controls the development of the sport, but also that the International Ski Federation (FIS) has used this as a reason for change, and perhaps not always correctly.
– FIS is of the opinion that it is TV and media that push the development towards more drama, such as sprinting. In Norway this may not always be true, since the traditional race formats also are still valued. However, this may be due to the strong tradition and ski culture in Norway and Sweden, and may not be the case in Middle-Europe and other parts of the World.
Thomas is afraid that Cross-Country ski racing would have been destroyed had it not been for the individuals slowing down the development.
– If others and I had not voiced our opinions, the changes in the sport may have been even more dramatic, and we may not have recognized ski racing anymore.
As long as the sport has come where it is today, it is doubtful it will reverse itself. Thomas has therefore a clear advice to all young skiers that want to make it to the top.
– Train speed, tactic and skating.
Do you believe the classical technique will disappear?
– I hope not, but I think eventually it will.