Norwegian TV viewers were treated to a different side of Petter Northug when he broke down and cried after finishing the 30K pursuit at the Holmenkollen World Championships.
“I didn’t intend to appear like that. I want people to think I’m a machine, but that’s going to be a problem now. It will probably take me years to rebuild my image now,” the World Champion said with a grin on Norwegian television station NRK Thursday.
A little more seriously, Northug talked about an intense feeling of joy but just as much a relief.
“I was under an incredible pressure leading into the Worlds, a pressure I put on myself. I’ve never been so happy after finishing. When I got the gold medal, I felt like I could lower my shoulders and relax again,” Northug said.
He was in Sweden for the interview, and wondered how he would be received there after the relay at the World Championships, where he snowplowed across the finish to humiliate the Swedes in second place.
“I was a little concerned about landing at the Stockholm airport, whether some Swedes would run up to me and try to strangle me or something,” Northug said.
If Northug wasn’t unpopular in Sweden before the Worlds, he is now. Let’s turn the time back to March 4, 2011: Petter Northug raced the anchor leg for Norway in the men’s 4x10K relay. He’s several meters ahead of his arch rival Marcus Hellner (SWE), but Northug chooses to wait up for Hellner just inches from the finish, and then snowplow across the line.
“That’s just how Petter is,” Hellner said to NRK after race. Some of the media commentators are harsher on Northug than his competitors. “Petter should be better than this. He’s such a great skier he doesn’t have to do these kinds of things,” said Anders Blomquist, expert commentator for the Swedish TV station.
Jonas Karlsson, also of STV, said Northug acted like a wolf on the course and a pig at the finish.
But Northug doesn’t feel like he needs to apologize, not even in the TV studio in Sweden. This is a golden opportunity to apologize Swedish commentators said when they got to know Northug was coming to the talk show.
“Apologize for what,” Northug said. – But wouldn’t you have been mad if someone did that to you? “I would,” Northug admitted, and pointed out that the Sweden-Norway duels are very important elements during major events such as the World Championships. “I don’t think the athletes take these stunts so seriously. It’s mostly the media and the spectators who make a big deal of it.”
The Falun race organizer Anki Kjellberg thinks Petter Northug would disappoint the audience if he was good and polite all the time. “People are curious as to what Northug will do. Even the speakers almost expect that he’ll do something different. If he never did anything special, it would be boring. In a way, this is almost a dilemma for him,” Kjellberg said to Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet.
About the surge
Northug also explains how he knows when the time is right for his famous surge. “I try to wait as long as possible, and keep my head cool before it happens. It also depends on where the others in the field are,” Northug explained.
The past week leading up to the World Cup finals in Sweden, Northug has rested as much as possible. “After the 50K and a little too much celebration, I had to rest,” he said.
From NRK.no, March 10, 2011. By Kirsti Falch-Nilsen and Jocob Arvola. Translation by 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.