LOCAL Nordic skiing star Andrew Musgrave stunned the home crowd at the Norwegian Championship races on Thursday (January 26), when he finished second in the most important race of the season, in what is Norway’s national sport.
Andrew, who is originally from Oyne, has been training in Norway for the last two seasons and is well known to Norwegian followers of international cross-country racing but they were nonetheless stunned when he came second in the first race of the National Championships.
In a field of 110 starters, including all the members of the Norwegian national ski team, only one man went faster than Andrew in the 15 km freestyle time trial event. Conditions were difficult with strong winds gusting over the course, but as the winner, Norwegian, Martin Johnsrud Sundby, commented afterwards, it was the same for everyone. In an interview after the race Andrew said that he started the race steadily but felt better and better as it went on.
Two years ago while still skiing in junior races, Andrew caused a stir when he took first place in the Norwegian Junior Championships, but to beat all but one of the elite Norwegian team yesterday has been far more of a shock, with headlines on NRK, the Norwegian equivalent of the BBC. The Championships are televised live in Norway and Musgrave is becoming a minor celebrity there. Andrew went back to Norway two weeks ago after completing the gruelling “Tour de Ski” series of races in the Alps where he was the first British skier to participate.
Andrew made headline news across Norway with his achievement, with headlines such as “The embarrassment of being beaten by a British skier”; “Young Briton Beat Northug”; “Andrew Musgrave Outdistanced Norwegian Cross Country Elite” and “National team beaten by a 40 year old and a Brit!” (Thomas Alsgaard, a veteran star of Norwegian skiing, now aged 40 finished fourth)..
TV2, Norway’s largest commercial station had the headline “Scotsman who parked Northug: - He comes back strong” in reference to Norwegian star skiier Petter Northug, who could only finish in 40th place, but who Andrew expects to bounce back strongly. They also credited Andrew’s performance to “a good dose of Scottish competitive mentality”.
Although he placed second in the race, a non-Norwegian Andrew was not eligible to claim the silver medal for the Championship, and received a bouquet of flowers in recognition instead. Asked by a Norwegian journalist if he would change his nationality to Norwegian, Andrew gave a firm “no”.
Andrew recovered quickly from his exertions in the Norwegian Championships to take to the snow again on Saturday (January 28) in the Skiathlon (30 K Classic/Skate pursuit event) where he finished an excellent fifth.
Andrew has been based in Norway for two and half years, living in Lillehammer and training with Norwegian Team Hovden.