The Granåsen Ski Stadium in Trondheim is one of the most iconic stages of Nordic skiing.
Mika Myllylä achieved a streak of medals there at the 1997 World Championships, which was crowned by the 50 km world championship. The World Cup will return to the same stadium in two years.
Things have happened in Granåsen since the end of the 1990s. The biggest star of contemporary skiing, born and still living in Trondheim, is especially associated with the place Johannes Hösflot Kläbo. Only 26 years old, Kläbo has already won 13 prestigious competition golds in his career. The seeds of success have been sown in the name Granåsen.
– When the other high school skiers took it easy in the stadium on the last descent, i.e. stood, drank recovery drinks and talked to each other, Johannes stood out from the crowd. He stayed in the landing position, worked out the driving lines, focused on judging his speed and actively practiced accelerations in the corners, the Norwegian Öyvind Sandbakk tells.
Sandbakk, 41, is a professor of exercise physiology and theory at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim. His office has been located in Granåsen for years and offered the opportunity to watch the events of the stadium up close.
– Johannes was quite small as a child. Puberty came later than others and he was not as good as his best peers. However, Johannes very actively practiced his technique and skiing skills. It developed early on, because he played a lot with skis on his feet.
Sandbakk is a former competitive skier who was at the top of Norway’s national team in the early 2000s. He was, among other things, in the sprint in 2001 and 2002, having achieved the world championship and the Olympic victory Tor Arne Hetlandin training buddy.
When a place in Norway’s rock-solid national team did not open up, Hetland recommended Sandbakk, who had been interested in statistics and training programs since childhood, to pursue a career in the academic world.
– I started keeping a training diary when I was 11 years old and collected all possible data. My father was a coach in the provincial team, and I ended up coaching myself in my twenties, among other things Niklas DyrhaugSandbakk says.
Sandbakk’s services have since been paid for, among other things, by the Norwegian Olympic Committee’s main venue, Olympiatoppen, for which Sandbakk was developing cross-disciplinary research cooperation. Nowadays, he is the leader of Trondheim University’s elite sports research unit and the Norwegian Ski Federation’s coaches’ association.
There has been reason to smile at Olympiatoppen. Norway has received 102 medals from the last three Winter Olympics, of which 41 are Olympic victories. Cross-country skiing has 33 medals, 17 of which are gold.
Norway has produced sprinters known for their explosive power output from the assembly line. Sandbakk, who wrote more than 200 scientific publications in his career, did his dissertation on sprint skiing.
The most famous speed jumpers on the slopes are Kläbo and the one who revolutionized him before skiing Petter Northug. Sandbakk has been able to follow the careers of both from the field.
– At the age of 11, Petter came to the ski school, where I was a coach. Like Johannes, he was small in size, but he had an excellent aerobic capacity.
Sandbakk skied in addition to coaching, when Northug broke into the top of the world.
– He could do a hundred-meter lunge in the middle of a normal distance exercise, after which he slowed down. Then he accelerated again. This continued until those of us who trained with him got frustrated. That ability became his canine teeth, Sandbakk recalls.
The evolution of the sport has been wild
The change in cross-country skiing has been dramatic over the past two decades. The sprint, which debuted in the 1996 World Cup and 2001 World Championships, has shaped the sport in a faster and more explosive direction.
Although there has been no change in the maximal oxygen uptake capacity of skiers in the 21st century, the development has been staggering in the field of free skiing technology, skis, ice skates, poles and tracks. Average speeds have increased by 10 percent over the past 20 years.
– It is more than in any other endurance sport, Sandbakk reminds.
The change can be seen visually in the skiers, who are heavier and more muscular in their upper body than in the early 1990s. The joint starts, which have become the dominant form of competition, are contested on easier tracks than before, which has tended to blur the line between sprinters and experts in normal distances.
The examples are Marit Björgen and Northug. From both, you will get valuable competition gold from all personal competition trips.
Not in one fashion
In modern skiing, however, it is still possible to manage with different features.
One example of this was seen last Friday in Planica, when the special men of normal trips Simen Hegstad Krüger and Sjur Röthe ran away from Kläbo in the first ascent of the free leg of the WC combined race.
After a heavy uphill, Kläbo managed to catch the duo before arriving at the stadium area. Kläbo has a superior ability to be able to generate energy in his pushes and kicks on uphills when he is tired. When you add to this the unparalleled ability to calculate the downhills and the Northug-like ability to increase the tempo on flat sections, Kläbo is able to enter the fight for victory from the back.
In the combined race in Planica, Kläbo finally managed to beat Röthe, but not Krüger.
Sandbakk emphasizes that Kläbo’s groundwork in Granåsen as a child played a key role.
– Sometimes Johannes’ grandfather used a stopwatch to measure how long it took Johannes to clear the bend. It all started as a game, then the exercises became systematic.
– He had a talent for ski skills, which was certainly apt to increase training motivation. But today’s gifts are ultimately the result of hard work.
Kläbo has been undefeated on long distances already in five prestigious races in a row. In the World Cup, the result has also come on normal trips.
In addition, Kläbo would have won the gold medal at the World Championships for 50 kilometers, but two years ago the jury rejected Kläbo, who finished first, because the Norwegian was considered to have wedged himself on the final stretch Aleksandr Bolshunov irregularly.
– When talking about the skier of all time, Petter Northug always shows four fingers to Kläbo, Sandbakk says with a laugh and refers to Northug’s four 50 km value races.
On Wednesday, there will be a 15 km free time trial start in Planica. It is a distance that Kläbo has never been able to overcome, even in the World Cup.
– I will be surprised if he wins. He needs a fast track.
According to Finns, Kläbo is definitely a marked man when it comes to Sunday’s 50-kilometer co-start with traditional skiing, which ends the competition. It is Iivo Niskanen the main trip. This is the Finn’s third and Kläbo’s sixth start of the Games.
– An athlete recovers well when he is in top condition, but six races in ten days is a borderline case. Kläbo plays with risk.
– When it comes to characteristics, Iivo beats Johannes only in aerobic performance. It comes into its own in a long race and long climbs. The condition of the track affects Kläbo’s chances significantly, Sandbakk states.