(Note: This article has been updated to include comments from Vidar Løfshus, head of the Norwegian cross-country ski team, and the team’s former performance manager, Åge Skinstad.)
The death of Norway’s Vibeke Skofterud shocked the international cross-country skiing world on Sunday, and as of Monday, multiple renowned skiers, particularly in Norway, had reacted publicly.
“I am shaking and am in complete shock over this horrible news that I received today,” Marit Bjørgen wrote in a press release, according to a translation. “Dear Vibeke, this was way too soon.”
Bjørgen and Skofterud were teammates on the Norwegian national team for well over a decade until Skofterud retired in 2015. They won gold together in the women’s relay at the 2010 Olympics and at World Championships in 2005 and 2011. Kristin Størmer Steira was also on all three of those winning relays, and Therese Johaug teamed up with the three to win in 2010 and 2011.
“I have lost one of my best friends,” Johaug wrote in another press release quoted by NRK. “A friend who lit up the room when she entered, one who gave everyone around her lots of energy, love and care. I take with me all of the nice moments and experiences in and outside of the trails and I will miss her. My thoughts go to her family and those left behind.”
Bjørgen added that she was “incredibly happy about all of the nice moments we had with each other. A tough competitor in the course, but more importantly, the warmest, nicest, toughest woman in the world,” she wrote. “We have experienced much together, from an Olympic gold medal in the relay … and I will cherish the memories for a long time. My thoughts go to her families and those closest to her. Love you Vibeke. Rest In Peace.”
Petter Northug wrote that the news was “incomprehensible and sad to hear,” according to News in English.no. “We had many fun years together on the national team.”
Odd-Bjørn Hjelmeset, a former skier who competed until 2011 and became a national team coach, recalled her “infectious humor”. Erik Røste, president of the Norwegian Ski Federation since 2012, said she was “an important ambassador for the sport of skiing with her winner’s spirit and great engagement.”
“Vibeke was that joyful girl who always contributed positively to the community she was a part of, definitely with her good results on the course,” Vidar Løfshus, head of the Norwegian cross-country team, told Aftenposten, according to a translation. “The fact that we have lost girl like her, who was always open, honest and spoke her opinion, is a loss to the entire community and inconceivable.”
“It is incredibly sad,” Åge Skinstad, a former national-team performance director who is currently TV 2’s cross-country expert, told TV 2, according to a translation. “The first thing you think about is the family and those closest to her. Vibeke was a fantastic human-being. She was a very, very good skier.”
One of her former competitors, Charlotte Kalla of Sweden, told Expressen that she was shocked by the tragedy.
“It feels uncomfortable and difficult to accept that such a joyful, positive, and full of energy kind of competitor such as Vibeke is longer with us,” Kalla said, according to a translation. “Vibeke was one of my role models when I entered the national team. A positive person who spread joy and really contributed to the cohesion with Norwegian team. She was a character within the sport who offered a lot of herself. It is with great sorrow that I now think of Vibeke and those closest to her. Rest In Peace Vibeke.”
— Aleks Tangen contributed reporting