The Oslo spectators make the SuperBowl seem like a tame crowd. When the Holmenkollen (Kollen for short) spectators cheer – or more precicesly roar – it delivers a surge of energy that is not easily described. FasterSkier caught up with sprint racers from near and far to try get a handle on what this venue does to you.
US Ski Team’s Sadie Bjornsen (Alaska Pacific University Nordic Ski Club) was one of the Americans who qualified for the heats in the opening sprint event Thursday. Her initial impression of the atmosphere at the venue was overwhelming.
“The people, the noise, it really keeps you going,” Bjornsen said to FasterSkier after her qualifier. “The course is really hard, Bjornsen was eliminated in the quarterfinals, but was happy just to make the heats. She eventually ended up in 24th place.
“It was nothing I could imagine,” said Perianne Jones of Canada after her qualifier.
“Even the home Olympics last year didn’t have this many people,” Jones said, her voice filled with awe and excitement.
“The course was really hard, I gave it everything I had,” Jones said. And that proved enough to secure a spot for the heats. She was 24th after the qualifier, but ended up not advancing from the quarterfinals and finished in 29th place.
Teammate Chandra Crawford was also taken by the noise.
“The atmosphere is incredible. This is the best ever! I get a lot of energy out if it,” she said to FasterSkier after her qualifier. Crawdford also advanced to the heats, qualifying in xth place, but also wasn’t able to move on to semifinals. She finished 28th overall.
The magic of the Kollen crowd, their famous roar and the overall atmosphere is magic no matter where you qualify or how many times you’ve heard it.
Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen (NOR) who grew up just minutes from the stadium, has raced the courses for years and experienced the roar – both from the participating and receiving end, explained it like this: “Kollen is boiling.”
The noise impressed and encouraged everyone. No matter the outcome of their race, they all came away with a unique experience.
“The qualifier was not as good as I wish,” said Lina Kreivenaite from Lithuania. She finished 61, and would have liked to at least qualify for the heats. But regardless, the just the crowd was worth the effort.
“The crowd is absolutely incredible. I’d like to come back,” Kreivenaite said. Only 23 years old, she’ll likely have more chances to ski in Holmenkollen, a staple on the World Cup every season.
US skier Torin Koos, who recently suffered a shoulder injury and had to sit out the World Cup in Drammen last weekend, had aimed for this sprint all season.
“It’s a great course and a great crowd, obviously. I hope the day is not over yet,” Koos said to FasterSkier after the qualifier. However, Koos ended up in 36th place, just over half a second from a spot in the heats.
Alexis Boeuf of France was also disappointed with his qualifier, finishing in 35th place.
“This was not very good for me, I had no good legs today. It’s the end of the season now and I am getting tired,” Boeuf said to FasterSkier. He explained that he competes both on the cross-country and the biathlon World Cup, and that he is headed over to the biathlon World Championships in Siberia next week, after racing as many of the cross-country World Championship events as he can fit in before the biathlon starts on March 3.
But like everyone else, he just can’t help but being carried away by the roar and the noise.
“It was very nice along the course,” he said.
Just for the fun of it
Jaqueline Mouro from Brazil didn’t know how to explain the atmosphere, but once she caught her breath, she compared it to Brazil’s national sport, soccer.
“This is like a soccer game in Brazil. It was not my goal to qualify, just to do one more race here before the 10K classic on Monday,” Mourao said.
She raced in the 5K classic qualifier on Wednesday to improve her points and earn a berth in the 10K classic.
And for the Danish skiers Jens Hulgaard and Kristian Wulff, who finished in 69th and 85th respectively, the course itself was a sight, not to mention the crowd.
“This was tough, really tough. We’re not made for this. I don’t think Denmark has this many hills,” Hulgaard said, still smiling and obviously enjoying the challenging experience.
“There is not much rest, it seems like a lot of rest from the start, but you have to start working from the beginning,” Wulff added, explaining that his strategy definitely failed. But like his teammate, still smiling and FasterSkier suspects they’ll return for more before the Championships are over.
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.