On Henrik Kristoffersen’s personal website there’s a countdown clock. It says, ‘Next race, 13 February 2022, Beijing, CHN’. Such an innocuous looking bit of text yet it speaks volumes.
That’s the date the Norwegian Alpine skier will take on the challenge of adding to his Olympic Winter Games medal collection having claimed a slalom bronze at Sochi 2014 and giant slalom silver at PyeongChang 2018. A gold to complete the set? Well, that would be nice but having had form challenges in the past two seasons, any kind of podium finish will be a win for the 27-year-old.
Kristoffersen's first attempt at adding to his Olympic medal collection will be in the giant slalom, one of two technical events in which he specialises, but if he doesn’t manage it then, the slalom offers another opportunity three days later on 16 February.
With Norway also the mixed team world champions, having won the inaugural event in Cortina d’Ampezzo in Italy in February, the motocross fan may also have a further opportunity for medal-ware on Saturday 19 February, if selected.
Having flown through his career from junior to senior success, a medal at this Games would likely be extra special.
How it started
It’s been a decade since Kristoffersen made his World Cup debut. In March 2012 in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, the then 17-year-old embarked on his history-making, accolade-collecting, title-winning career.
Just a year later his claimed his first World Cup podium, finishing third in the slalom in Levi, Finland.
By January 2014, he’d won his first World Cup race, in slalom at the iconic course in Schladming, Austria. A month later, aged 19, he was an Olympic bronze medalist, the youngest male medallist in Olympic Alpine skiing history.
By 2015, he was a six-time world junior champion and had won four World Cup races.
In 2016, Kristoffersen became the first male racer in 24 years to win six World Cup slalom races during a single season and also the first to win the four classic slalom races – of Adelboden, Wengen, Kitzbühel and Schladming – also in one season. With these successes he became the most successful Norwegian in the history of World Cup slalom competition and became a first time big crystal globe winner, the trophy awarded to the season’s best skier in each discipline.
The 2017 season saw a mere five slalom World Cup wins finishing just off the podium in fourth in both slalom and giant slalom at the World Championships in February in St Moritz, Switzerland.
In 2018, a second Olympic medal, and in 2019 Kristoffersen became world champion in giant slalom in Are, Sweden.
The 2019-20 season, which finished in March saw big crystal globe wins in slalom and giant slalom. Kristoffersen was flying. Until he wasn’t.
With the 2020-21 starting in October, it took until December for Kristoffersen to win his first World Cup race. He told world governing body, the FIS, after the race win in Madonna di Campiglio, Italy on 22 December: “I think the season started off good with a fifth place and Lech was good, and since then it's been terrible.
"Everyone starts thinking, only after three races, 'Is he finished now? What's wrong?' and everything.
“Skiing is my life. I have a family and skiing and that's my life, I don't have anything else. When that goes tough, it's challenging especially when you've won so many races before.”
On a personal blog, posted in January 2021, Kristoffersen reflected on his form: “I have skied world cup racing since 2012, when I was 17 years old. I got my first podium and win when I was 19. My career this far has been one big success, in which I have really not had a continuous run of varying or bad results. This season so far has been my toughest one yet on the world cup circuit. After struggling for a little bit, I have given it some reflection.
“Almost everyone goes through a spell of bad performances, a serious injury or a struggle of some kind, and this is one of mine. I feel like it’s important to stay positive and try to resolve the challenge at hand within the best of my ability. It’s not like I need to reinvent the wheel, and I know that I am a good skier.”
By season’s end, Kristoffersen wrote on instagram: “This season is over, and it was a difficult one for sure. However, two victories and a WCS medal (world championship bronze in slalom in Cortina d’Ampezzo) is nothing to be ashamed of!”
With the majority of the 2021-22 season done and the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games looming, Kristoffersen’s form is still, for him, patchy.
The sole win of the season so far, which continues after the Games, was the giant slalom in Alta Badia, Italy in December. Another podium place, a bronze in slalom in Kitzbuhel on 22 January, plus a season peppered with fourths, fifths and nearlies, shows Kristoffersen is still very much one to watch at Beijing 2022.
Recent social media posts include upbeat comments such as, “things are going in the right direction”, “I’m really pleased with the progress made these past few races” and “things are starting to settle now”.
Turns out the clock is not just ticking for Kristoffersen but for his competitors too.
All Alpine skiing disciplines at Beijing 2022 start Sunday 6 February with the men's downhill.