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  • Exclusive: Norwegian Skiers Welcome Lillehammer Youth Olympic Games


    (ATR) Norwegian ski racers Kjetil Jansrud and Aksel Lund Svindal believe that the 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games in Lillehammer will be good for young athletes and the Olympic Movement.

    Svindal (left) and Jansrud (right) at a press conference in Italy (ATR)
    Jansrud, a three-time Olympian with three Olympic medals including super-G gold in Sochi, is a Lillehammer Winter YOG Ambassador.

    The two skiers spoke to Around the Rings at races in Val Gardena, Italy where they are competing in FIS World Cup events.

    “I think its good to have Norway hosting the Youth Olympics and the spirit there is coalescent with what the IOC is trying to put into it,” Jansrud said. “I think they can get better media coverage then they’ve had over the past few years,” he said alluding to Oslo’s decision to drop out of the race for the 2022 Games in October 2014.

    “On one hand, I’m an ambassador, on the other hand I don’t think it’s right to be calling young people Olympic champions at the age of 15,” Jansrud added. “Then again, if you look at the program and see the classes they have with anti-doping work and respect between countries, it’s impressive.”

    Three-time Olympian Aksel Lund Svindal (ATR)
    Svindal, like Jansrud, is a three-time Olympian with three Olympic medals, including super-G gold in Vancouver 2010. He has won all three World Cup downhill races this season and is in pursuit of a third overall World Cup title.

    “In Norway, there’s definitely a little bit of a buzz,” Svindal said about the upcoming Youth Olympic Games.

    “I think its cool that they’re making a big deal out of the Youth Olympics,” said the veteran skier. “It almost seems like with the normal Olympics being a crazy expensive affair where a lot of countries don’t want to host, maybe this is a good chance to bring it back to its roots.

    “They had it in Innsbruck and now it will be Lillehammer, so hopefully it’s about bringing it back to the basics,” Svindal added.

    Jansrud spoke of the values and benefits of the programs surrounding the YOG, especially considering the current era of big business in sport.

    Kjetil Jansrud after a race in Val Gardena, Italy (ATR)
    “It’s important because you see younger and younger guys making more money on skiing and their sports, so I think it’s needed to educate the young generation,” Jansrud said.

    Jansrud has a busy World Cup race schedule in February, but hopes to make it to Lillehammer for a few days of the Games.

    Jansrud, 30, and Svindal, 32, have been dominant on the FIS Alpine World Cup this season. Svindal has won five of nine races entered, while Jansrud has been on the podium five times. The duo finished 1-2 in a night parallel giant slalom in Italy on Jan. 21, with Jansrud taking top honors.

    While according to the high profile alpine skiers enthusiasm is high in Norway for Winter YOG, it was Oslo that ultimately rejected to continue a bid for the 2022 Winter Games.

    Oslo dropped out of the race on October 1, 2014 after the Norwegian government declined to provide financial backing, leaving Beijing and Almaty.

    Members of the ruling Conservative party members voted against giving financial guarantees to the bid amid concerns the games would be too costly.

    FIS Norwegian Kristoffersen is victorious in Italy. (ATR)
    “I hoped that we would have been able to arrange 2022 – I might have been able to participate, but that didn’t happen,” Jansrud said. “We’ll see if we can create some of the same experience for the Youth Olympic Games.”

    Henrik Kristoffersen, Norway’s top slalom skier and an Olympic bronze medalist in Sochi 2014, expressed his disappointment regarding the Oslo decision.

    “I think it’s not great for sure – I would have liked to have had it in Norway when I would be in my prime,” said Kristoffersen, who won a night slalom Dec. 22 in Madonna di Campiglio.

    “It was in Sochi, now South Korea and then China. I don’t think it’s good for the (Winter) Olympics actually – it takes away a little of the spirit of the Olympics without snow.

    “It’s the Winter Olympics, not Summer Olympics – I think it’s a little bit bad.”

    Inspiring Memories of Lillehammer 1994

    Jansrud and Svindal both have fond memories of attending events with their families during Lillehammer 1994, experiences that helped shape their careers. At the time, Jansrud was nine and Svindal was eleven.

    Jansrud recalls attending men’s large hill ski jumping and the men’s downhill.

    “I went to the downhill event and remember how cold it was, like minus 25,” Jansrud said. “I remember walking over the river from the buses and there were a lot of people there. I remember how exciting the atmosphere was.

    “It was inspiring. It gave me a boost for my young career,” he said. “Sport is probably one of the best educational systems that you have.”

    Svindal also recollects attending ski races at the Lillehammer ‘94 Games.

    “It was a cool atmosphere – not a crazy V.I.P. affair,” Svindal said. “Just tons of people out in the woods watching cross-country, standing in the finish area of the downhill and enjoying the Games.

    “Ask anyone who went to the Lillehammer Olympics – people tell me they were amazing.”

    Some 1,100 athletes between the ages of 15 and 18 from 70 nations will compete at the Winter YOG in Lillehammer, Hamar, Gjovik, Oyer and Oslo, Feb. 12-21.

    Written by Brian Pinelli

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