Johnsrud Sundby: Shocked and Saddened by Pankratov News

Inge ScheveSeptember 13, 20109
Martin Johnsrud Sundby. Photo, Geir Olsen.

NORWAY – When Russian skier Nikolay Pankratov was caught on the Swiss border with intravenous equipment and 22 vials of actovegin, nobody was more shocked than Martin Johnsrud Sundby. The Norwegian national team member has spent much of his summer training with and getting to know the Russian skier during his extended training stay in Norway.

“I’m shocked, and I just don’t want to comment further at this point,” was Johnsrud Sundby’s answer when brought him the news this weekend.

Impressed with Pankratov’s volume

Earlier this fall, Johnsrud Sundby said in an interview with that he was impressed with the Russians’ eagerness to train.

“You almost want to ask yourself if what we do at the national team is elite level,” Johnsrud Sundby said with a grin.

Johnsrud Sundby is one of the national team racers who can show off the most annual hours in his training log, and barely ever skips a workout. For the upcoming season, Johnsrud Sundby and national team coach Morten Aa Djupvik have decided to cut back a bit on the annual hours in order to ensure quality.

This summer, Johnsrud Sundby has spent considerable time with Pankratov, who has two second-place finishes on the world Cup, as well as a bronze medal from the 2005 World Championships in Oberstdorf (GER). Johnsrud Sundby was impressed with Panratov’s capacity.

“You sometimes start to wonder whether what we do here in Norway is elite level at all when you hear how much these Russians train. It’s insane. I’m simply shocked by some of the stories Pankratov tells me,” Johnsrud Sundby said to

Pankratov, who signed a mutual contract with the private Norwegian initiative “Team Synnfjell,” completed an extended stay in Norway at the end of august. One of his last workouts was an uphill time trial that Johnsrud Sundby also attended.

“He’s an incredible athlete. It’s been very interesting to gain some insight into the Russian training culture. It’s quite different from what we’re used to here in Norway,” Johnsrud Sundby said after the time trial.

Six to seven hours per day

That the Russians log far more training hours than the Norwegian national team doesn’t bother Johnsrud Sundby one bit. “I think it’s really interesting. It just shows that putting in a lot of hours really works. The Russians are very strong, and often the fastest in the field. There is guaranteed nobody who trains more than the Russians, and their training methods are different from ours. Pankratov puts in between six and seven hours of training every day, so then you do the math for the annual volume,” Johnsrud Sundby said.

What are your thoughts on overtraining?

“In Norway, we’re horrified of overloading the system. We talk about overload here and overload there, but few Norwegians do more than three to four hours per day. You get quite a different perspective when you hear how much skiers from other nations train. We only train half the volume of the Russians.”

There are no rights or wrongs

Johnsrud Sundby is attending the Norwegian national team altitude camp until the middle of September. Only he and Petter Northug are staying that long. ”I think a lot of people are too fast to draw conclusions. For instance, I’ve noticed a lot of people claim that that the volumes and methods the Russians train are silly. Well, it obviously works, so it can’t be that wild,” he said.

But it seems to work just fine to train half as much?

“Exactly. That’s what’s so interesting. There are no black and white rights and wrongs,” Johnsrud Sundby said. “But I have a feeling that a lot of people in Norway train a lot, but very few log extreme volumes. At the same time, there are a lot of very good Norwegian skiers, but not very many extremely good skiers,” he added.

Does Pankratov inspire you to match his training volume, or will you stick to your plan of slightly less volume this season?

“This season I will reduce my volume just a bit. I hope that works for me,” Johnsrud Sundby said.

From August 25, 2010 By Ola Jordheim Halvorsen, translation by Inge Scheve

Inge Scheve

Inge is FasterSkier's international reporter, born and bred in Norway. A cross-country ski racer and mountain runner, she also dabbles on two wheels in the offseason. If it's steep and long, she loves it. Follow her on Twitter: @IngeScheve.

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  • nexer

    September 14, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    Shocked I say, shocked! I can’t imagine why.

  • Tim Kelley

    September 17, 2010 at 3:05 am

    “Pankratov … signed a mutual contract with the private Norwegian initiative “Team Synnfjell” .

    I’m not sure how the name of this team would be pronounced in Norway, but in the US it would probably be pronounced as “Team Sinful”. Perhaps calling your team “sinful” is not the best idea. And perhaps it does not seem too shocking that an alleged doper comes from a team full of sin. 😉 “Sinful” would be a good name for a Norwegian Black Metal band. But Sinful is not a great name for a xc ski team that wants people to think they are clean athletes.

  • donpollari

    September 17, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    Hmmm…,I wonder if there’s a correlation between being able to train 1400 to 1600 hrs./year and being a doper?

  • Tim Kelley

    September 17, 2010 at 8:53 pm

    Don, To train that many hours one’s body would need synthetic fuel, ie synfuel. Know what I mean. Apparently Pankratov’s team does not use natural fuel, they use synthetic fuel. Why else would they name themselves “Team Synnfuel”.

  • donpollari

    September 17, 2010 at 10:01 pm

    Yuppers, I’d agree with that TK.

    I just clearly recall US skiers being criticized a few years ago because they weren’t putting in the 1200 to 1600 hrs/year of training volume like WC champ Tobias Angerer and the dominate German team was.

    Oh yeah, that was before the systemized doping program at the University at Friedberg(?) got shut down.

  • Tim Kelley

    September 19, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    Don, I agree … by the system and modes that xc ski racers train, and with the prevailing mentality – 1200 to 1600 hours of training is huge. But as I have posted before (and of course it doesn’t register with most xc skeirs) … these hours are not that impressive in the big picture. The human body can handle much more. A good example of this is Andrew Skurka, an ultra-runner / ultra-hiker that just completed a 4700 mile loop in Alaska in 7 months ( I figure over 7 months he probably averaged 10-12 hours a day of Level I and Level II exercise. So, that’s 2100-2500 hours in 7 months. That makes world cup skier training hours look quite meager. Andrew has gotten 2nd in the Leadville 100 – so he’s athletic and likely not the type that sits around. So I’d guess he will probably have trained around 2500-3000 hours by the time this year is over. These types of hours are not uncommon for “ultra-people” that do ambitious trips and expeditions. I’m not saying that these types of hours make you a fast skier. I’m just saying that when xc skiers say that 1200 hours a years is huge … it’s a sign that they are a bit clueless.

  • nexer

    September 19, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    I’m pretty sure 40 mins of using up all the glycogen in your body is part of the reason why 1200 hours seems huge.

    Heck Grizzly Adams managed to hike all over tarnation. I bet he got 3000 hours of L1.

  • Tim Kelley

    September 21, 2010 at 11:22 pm

    The difference between a skier training 800 hours and a skier training 1200 hours is likely 400 hours of L1, and not 40 minute max-glycogen-sucking workouts. So if all the bulk in training hours is L1, why stop at 1200? Go big, go 3000 … get strong like grizzly.

  • SkateIsDaShiz

    September 26, 2010 at 12:49 am

    I agree….If US Skiers want to perform well at the pro level they’ll have to make some changes. Being a skier myself i feel lazy reading how hard these guys work

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