Norway’s slalom superstar
After winning slalom bronze as a 19-year-old at the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014, Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen kicked on to become the world No1 in the event. And over the following two seasons he scored a string of brilliant victories to position himself as the favourite for gold at PyeongChang 2018.
Where it all beganKristoffersen was born on 2 July 1994 in Lørenskog in the Norwegian county of Akeshus, just a stone’s throw from Marikollen ski resort, where he cut his teeth as an Alpine skier. Presented with his first pair of skis at the age of four, Kristoffersen was also a motocross fanatic, and he has continued to integrate this physically demanding sport into his training schedule.
It was during his childhood years that the up-and-coming Norwegian first met the great Kjetil Andre Aamodt, whom he describes on his website as a “great role model, great skier and a great person”. The most decorated Alpine skier in Olympic history and a three-time Olympic Super-G champion between 1992 and 2006, Aamodt said Kristoffersen was the most talented young skier he had seen since Marcel Hirscher.
Living up to that praise, the youngster scored the first major victories of his career in February 2009, aged only 14, winning the slalom and the giant events at the Trofeo Toppolino in Italy, a meeting widely regarded as the unofficial world junior championships.
A brilliant junior careerThe young Norwegian star then won the giant slalom title at the 2012 World Junior Ski Championships in Roccaraso (ITA). “Indescribable feeling. There was going to be five more WJC gold medals before my junior career was finished,” he wrote, reflecting on that win.
Aside from that win in Italy, where he also picked up silvers in the slalom and combined, Kristoffersen collected world junior gold in the combined in Mont Saint-Anne (CAN) in 2013, and the giant and slalom in Jasná (SVK) in 2014, a double he repeated on home snow in Hafjell a year later.
Olympic bronze at 19The Norwegian made his FIS World Cup debut in Krjanska Gora in March 2012, and made his first visit to the podium in November 2013, pocketing slalom bronze in Levi (FIN). His first victory came in the run-up to the Sochi Games, in the night race in Schladming the following January. After triumphing in what he described as “the biggest slalom race you can win”, Kristoffersen was hoisted aloft by Marcel Hirscher and Felix Neureuther, the two men he pipped to victory.
At Sochi 2014, Kristoffersen found himself a lowly 15th after the first run of the slalom in Rosa Khutor, fully 1.79 seconds behind Austrian veteran Mario Matt. A treacherous second run then saw a number of competitors ski out or lose their way entirely, while Kristoffersen conjured up a superb performance to shoot up the standings.
Light on his skis, precise and full of attacking intent, he eventually finished third, behind Hirscher who took silver and 0.88 seconds adrift of the victorious Matt. Aged only 19, the Norwegian became the youngest male medallist in Olympic Alpine skiing history. “It is not far between heaven and hell,” he posted on his website. “Bronze in my first Olympic games. Creative course setting in second run by the legend Ante Kostelic.”
The world’s bestBuilding on his Sochi bronze, Kristoffersen went on to become world slalom No1. In the process, he restored Norway – a global powerhouse of winter sports – to the pinnacle of Alpine skiing, following several lean years for the country’s skiers.
After winning his first World Cup giant slalom in Méribel (FRA) in March 2015, he enjoyed a remarkable run of success in the slalom in the 2015/16 season. In recording six consecutive wins, he became the first skier in history to win the four classic races (Abelboden, Wengen, Schladming and Kitzbühel) in the same season. That stunning sequence helped him claim the slalom crystal globe at the end of campaign.
In a class of his ownKristoffersen was in unstoppable form between the gates once again the following season, posting win on Val d’Isère’s imposing Face de Bellevarde, and in Madonna di Campiglio, Abelboden, Wengen, Kitzbühel and Schladming, where he held on for victory after Hirscher produced a storming second run. That latest success in Austria took his tally of World Cup slalom wins to 14, a Norwegian record.
Looming large now for the former pupil of the Marikollen Skisenter are the next Winter Games, an objective he has been looking forward to since winning his maiden Olympic medal: “The next Games are in four years. The road is long and I have a lot of time to ski competitively and pick up experience for PyeongChang 2018. My major Olympic goals are to win gold in the slalom and the giant slalom.”
And there is little doubt that the insatiable Kristoffersen is on track to achieve that lofty ambition.