Five things to know about cross-country skiing star Heidi Weng

The multi-talented Norwegian is one of her nation’s top sporting talents, and relies heavily on training in other sports in order to reach her potential... plus a love of sleep.

By Andrew Binner
Picture by 2016 Getty Images

Heidi Weng grew up in a remote part of Norway, where cross-country skiing is a way of life as well as a sport.

She was doing ski tours by the age of three, and competing in competitions at seven.

Weng may only be 1.63m (5-foot-4), but she is fiercely competitive and made a name for herself with three gold medals at the Junior World Championships. Soon after, in 2011, she made her senior World Cup debut and has claimed 13 individual and 11 team victories to date.

Weng’s astonishing consistency saw her claim the World Cup overall title in 2016-17 and 2017-18, five World Championships gold medals, and bronze at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics.

Despite a difficult Olympic cycle (more on that below), she is a medal favourite for Beijing 2022 in February.

But how well do you know the Ytre Enebakk native, who has competed at more than one sport?

Heidi Weng has secured over 100 individual World Cup podiums in cross-country skiing.
Picture by 2018 Getty Images

1 - Heidi Weng: the queen of sleep

There is an old saying that 'sleep is the most productive thing you can do', due to its benefits for when you are awake.

Weng certainly subscribes to this train of thought, and has previously confessed that she sleeps more than anyone else on her national team.

“I sleep at least 10 hours a night, and then take a two-hour nap in the afternoon,” she told redbull.com.

Technically, that means Weng sleeps for half of the day, and that certainly hasn't prevented her from achieving numerous sporting successes!

2 - A career forged by family love

Growing up in the sleepy Norwegian countryside, Weng's family are central to her life. For example, she was first introduced to ski touring as a three-year-old by her grandmother.

Despite being one of the world's best cross-country skiers now, training with successful athletes including Marit Bjoergen and Therese Johaug, it is her older sister Merete who she looks up to the most.

“My sister is my biggest role model for me. She is so kind-hearted – helping and supporting everyone all the time. She never says no, which is something I really admire in her," she continued to redbull.com

Merete also competed in cross-country skiing for Norway, and the siblings raced against each other on several occasions.

Charlotte Kalla (left, silver), Marit Bjoergen (middle, gold), and Heidi Weng (right, bronze) on the podium at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.
Picture by 2014 Getty Images

3) The power of sports psychology

The coronavirus pandemic hit Weng particularly hard.

The athlete became so concerned about contracting the virus that she pulled out of the 2020-21 Tour de Ski season before the finish.

She described how the situation started to affect her mental health, and she lost motivation to return to the sport. It took many hours with a sports psychologist to get her to compete internationally again.

"It has been nice to have someone to talk to, to become aware of certain things,” she told Tellerreport.com

4) International trail runner

Cross-country skiing is not the only sport in which Weng has achieved honours.

Growing up, she was also a promising handball and football player, but really excelled at trail running.

During the summer she would use her supreme cardiovascular fitness as she paced the hills and valleys of Norway.

In 2010, Weng won relay gold and silver at the cross-country skiing Junior World Championships, before becoming the Norwegian trail running champion later that year.

5 - A cycling addict

The 30-year-old no longer competes in trail running, but does clock up 20 hours of cycling a month.

"I have become very addicted to cycling. Now it’s almost like I want to take part in some bike rides, but I do not. I can not cycle downhill," she told Dagbladet.

"I have put more cycling into training."

MORE: Olympic cross-country skiing at Beijing 2022: Top five things to know

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