He has won medals of each colour at the Olympic Winter Games: gold (super-G in 2014), silver (giant slalom in 2010, downhill in 2018) and bronze (downhill in 2014, super-G in 2018). With his five podium finishes, Kjetil Jansrud, the Norwegian speed specialist, is one of the most decorated Olympic Alpine skiing stars of all time.
Born in the large port city of Stavanger on 28 August 1985, Kjetil Jansrud grew up in the town of Vinstra in Oppland, "in the heart of a Norwegian winter sports paradise" as he describes it, and an hour by road from Lillehammer, where he went to train in Alpine skiing from the age of seven. The Olympiabakken, a speed run in the resort of Kvitfjell that was designed by Bernhard Russi for the 1994 Winter Games, is his domain: it was here that Kjetil won his first World Cup victory, in the super-G in 2012. He has won here six times since, and achieved the downhill/super-G double in 2014, before going on to win the super-G again in 2015, 2016 and 2018, and the downhill in 2017! In addition, on 25 February 2017, Kjetil became the first Norwegian to win on a course covering the full length of the Olympiabakken, which has been one of the classics of the international circuit since before the turn of the century.
Although Kjetil started out strongest in technical disciplines (he won silver in the giant slalom at the 2004 Junior World Championships in Maribor), competed in the slalom when he first joined the World Cup circuit in 2003, and won his first Olympic medal in the giant slalom (finishing second behind Switzerland's Carlo Janka in Whistler at the 2010 Vancouver Games), he now specialises in speed. By 2018, he had amassed eight downhill victories (most notably on the Streif in Kitzbühel in 2015), 11 wins in the super-G, one in the giant parallel slalom and another in the combined, for a total of 21 World Cup wins and 48 podium finishes in his career so far.
The Norwegian YOG Ambassador for Lillehammer 2016 had his first experience at the Olympic Winter Games in Turin in 2006, at the age of 20. "The previous year I had won the European Cup; […] the slalom cup, the giant slalom cup and the total cup. I was at the top of my game, feeling unbeatable," recalls Kjetil on his website. After finishing 10th in the combined in Sestrière, he broke his thumb in his first run in the giant slalom. He returned home to Norway immediately, had an operation on the "complicated fracture", and his season ended there. It then took some time for Kjetil to make a name for himself among the best skiers in the world and, in the end, his first major international victory was his silver medal at the Olympic Winter Games 2010.
As he was beginning to collect podium places on the World Cup circuit, Kjetil sustained another injury, during the FIS World Cup super-G in Schladming in 2013: he crashed and ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his right knee. He describes what happened next in his journey: "From being one of the favourites, the Championship ended the very first day in the super-G discipline, with a torn ACL and a plane ticket back to Norway. Determined to come back, I kept on working hard and being thorough in my search for details to improve. The rehabilitation of the ACL went faster than many had thought possible, and in February 2014 – almost exactly a year after my ACL injury – I managed to fulfil my dream and claimed gold in super-G and bronze in downhill. This completed my set of Olympic medals and also brought me to the end of the season with a second wind, scoring my first ever downhill World Cup victory," – in Kvitfjell, of course. "Personally, when I look back at the season of 2013-2014, I see the achievements as a direct result of being stubborn, working hard and – most importantly – never giving up".
The skilled guitarist ("but not as good as Jimi Hendrix", he says), ice hockey fan, Liverpool FC supporter, and globetrotter, who says he loves Thailand and the US, became one of the favourites in every speed event after his 2014 Olympic triumph. During the 2015-2016 season, his most notable win was on the Jeongseon downhill course, which was being tested for the first time two years ahead of the PyeongChang Games. In the 2016-2017 season, he won on the downhill in Val d'Isère and in Kvitfjell, and in the super-G in Val d'Isère, Val Gardena and Bormio. He also took the silver medal in the super-G at the FIS World Championships in St Moritz, behind the Canadian Eric Guay. With his team-mate and friend Aksel Lund Svindal regularly out of action because of injury, Kjetil became the leader of the Norwegian Alpine ski team, the champion who battled Marcel Hirscher at the top of the World Cup overall standings, in which he twice achieved second place, in 2015 and 2017, winning four small Crystal Globes along the way: in the downhill in 2015, and in the super-G in 2015, 2017 and 2018.
On 15 February 2018 in Jeongseon, Aksel Lund Svindal became the first Norwegian to win Olympic gold in the downhill. But he won with a narrow lead, and firmly believed that the honour would go to his team-mate. In fact, racing two bibs after him, Kjetil was ahead at all the intermediary time checks, before making a mistake with his line at the very end of the course. He lost a bit of speed and ended up crossing the finish line 0.12 seconds slower than Svindal and 0.06 seconds ahead of Switzerland's Beat Feuz, who took bronze. The two Vikings congratulated each other and enjoyed their historic podium finish.
The next day, Kjetil mounted the podium for a second time: he lost his super-G title to Austrian Matthias Mayer but took third place to claim his fifth Olympic medal. He therefore sits alongside Alberto Tomba and his compatriot Lasse Kjus in the list of the most decorated Olympic Alpine skiers of all time, behind Kjetil Andre Aamodt (eight medals) and Bode Miller (six). "I will be the first to admit that I am a very privileged person to be able to pursue my dreams in a hobby that has turned into a full time job... But the journey isn’t over, and the aim of winning more persists," wrote Kjetil on his website.
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