Petter Northug Jr. took it upon himself to stir up some drama in Sweden on Friday when he won the Bruksvallarna 10-kilometer classic race, in, you guessed it, Sweden.
The 29-year-old Norwegian won the 10 k International Ski Federation (FIS) race by 36.1 seconds over Sweden’s Jimmie Johnsson, of the AXA Sports Club. Northug did so without any trouble as none of the men in the 180-plus field came close to him throughout the individual start. By 3 k, he was nearly 6 seconds up on the next-fastest man, Johnsson. Throughout the race, he continued to widen the gap to competitors like Simon Andersson of Sweden and Chris Andre Jespersen, Northug’s teammate on the Norwegian World Cup team.
If it wasn’t enough of a jab that he wore a race suit that distinctly displayed Sweden’s colors and flag, Northug told Norwegian press the win meant nothing to him. If he’d raced similarly in Beitostølen, Norway, last week (which had a slightly longer 15 k classic), he wouldn’t have finished in the top 10, he told NRK. He won Friday’s 10 k in 23:43.3.
But he didn’t race the Beitostølen 15 k classic, and this marked his first win in two race weekends this season (he was second to Norwegian teammate Eirik Brandsdal in the Beitostølen classic sprint last weekend). There, he raced in a red-and-white suit with the name of his main sponsor, Coop, on his leg.
In Bruksvallarna, he wore another suit with the Coop logo — one custom-made by Bjørn Dæhlie — with Sweden’s white, blue and yellow.
“Some look at this with hatred, but I don’t judge anyone,” Northug told NRK, according to a translation. “People are allowed to think what they want.”
Despite feeling lack he lacked “a little punch” early in the race, Northug closed hard in the final the kilometers on Friday. At the finish, where he knocked Johnsson — the sixth starter — out of the leader’s spot (Northug started 158th), Northug made a point not to celebrate.
“It’s just training here; it means nothing that I won the race,” he told VG.
“It would be as if I was celebrating beating my brother in a running race, and he was three and I was 14,” he said, according to a rough translation.
The fact of the matter is Johnsson, 30, is actually older than Northug, and so is 31-year-old Martin Johansson of IFK Mora, who placed third 38.1 seconds back and 2 seconds out of second.
Two-tenths of a second from the podium was Norway’s 22-year-old Mikael Gunnulfsen (Oern IF) in fourth, and Jespersen, 32, placed fifth (+ 38.6). In second at one point, Andersson ended up sixth (+39.9).
In all-too-personal news, Northug’s coach, Stig Rune Kveen, told Aftonbladet that Northug is actually half-Swedish. His parents, John and May, apparently conceived him at the Bruksvallarna mountain race in April 1985. Therefore, thereto…
Swedish sprinter Emil Jönsson, who placed 15th (+1:03.4), was all for Northug becoming a full-blown Swedish citizen.
“He is most welcome. We can offer food and shelter,” he told Expressen. “We may need him.”
Racing continues in Bruksvallarna with the 10/15 k freestyle on Saturday and freestyle sprints on Sunday.
Alex Kochon (email@example.com) is the former managing editor at FasterSkier. She spent seven years with FS from 2011-2018, and has been writing, editing, and skiing ever since. She's making a cameo in 2020.