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Moan won the Nordic Combined World Cup competition in ­Holmenkollen, Oslo, 2005. Photo: Lena Johnsen
Moan won the Nordic Combined World Cup competition in ­Holmenkollen, Oslo, 2005. Photo: Lena Johnsen

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Meet Norwegian skier Magnus Moan

Nordic combined skier Magnus Moan has what it takes to win. And on the day he wins gold Norway will cry in unison.

This is Magnus Hovdal Moan

Born: August 26, 1983 in ­Lillehammer, Norway
Lives: Byåsen, Trondheim
Family: Married, with two sons
Career: Olympic gold on the team event in Sochi 2014. Two Olympic silver medals and one bronze medal. World champion team Oberstdorf 2005. Three silver and four bronze medals from world championships. Entered the World Cup in 2003. Won his first World Cup race in Reit im Winkl in 2004. Awarded with the Holmenkollen Medal, the highest award in Norwegian ski sports.

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In February 2015, Norwegian sports columnist Kjetil Kroksæter wrote an article titled “One day we’ll cry because Moan’s won gold.”

The column continued: “His career seems to be cursed. If it’s not sickness or poor form, it’s bad luck, the wrong skis, or he makes tactical mistakes. Magnus Moan always returns home from championships crestfallen.”

Magnus Moan, the 32-year-old Norwegian Nordic combined skier, has a different take on the situation. “Well, if you want to look at it the cynical way, I am the athlete who doesn’t have an individual gold medal,” he says. “That’s not something I waste any energy on. There’s no point in putting that kind of pressure on myself.”

“You can’t control injuries and health – the only thing you can do is try to make the best of the situation,” he says.

Moan has been at or near the top of the world for a decade, winning bronze and silver at the Turin Olympics in 2006, and silver and a team relay gold in Sochi in 2014. He also has one team World Championship gold medal, as well as four silvers and five bronzes.

Nordic combined is a fascinating winter sport in which athletes compete in both ski jumping and cross-country skiing. Its traditions go way back in Norwegian history to when the first major competition was held in Oslo in 1892.

‘He prioritizes what is needed in order to succeed, which is what ­winners do’

“In the beginning, you often compete in the disciplines separately,” Moan says. “It’s hard to master both, but I love the daily challenge of working toward that. My role models, Petter Northug and Tommy Ingebrigtsen, both practiced Nordic combined first,” he says, referring to the current Norwegian cross-country star and the retired Norwegian ski jumper respectively.

A small sport

Paradoxically, Nordic combined is a small sport in the Nordics, yet has grown in popularity in Central Europe. In its infancy, the sport was dominated by Norway and Finland, and it wasn’t until 1960 that the Olympic gold went to an athlete not from the Nordic countries, when Georg Thoma of West Germany won at the Squaw Valley, California Olympics.

Photo: Lena JohnsenSverre Rotevatn, Sports Director for the Norwegian Nordic combined team and a former athlete himself, first took notice of Moan at the Norwegian championships in 2002. Moan was the skier next to him on the track coming down the final stretch.

“I think that’s the only time I beat Magnus in a sprint,” Rotevatn says. “He was a natural talent who had great endurance while also being fast and explosive.

“He prioritizes what is needed in order to succeed, which is what winners do. He is honest and emotional, and has come back after some setbacks, especially in championships. A lot of people were very happy for him after his success in Sochi 2014.”

Finding the limits

For Moan, the challenge of mastering both skiing and ski jumping hasn’t been just about winning, but about finding his limits.

“I remember my first World Cup competition in 2003, when I lined up against the legends – [Germany’s] Ronny Ackermann, [Austria’s] Felix Gottwald, and [Finland’s] Samppa Lajunen and Hannu Manninen – who were at such a high level,” Moan says. “I was wondering if I would be able reach their level.”

It turned out that he wasn’t ready for the big time yet, and he took a step down to compete on the World Cup’s B circuit. The following year, he had his breakthrough.

“It was such a surreal moment to leave Samppa Lajunen, a triple Olympic champion, behind me and cross the finish line all by myself!” he says. “It was my first World Cup win, and it made me want more.”

Frode Moen, a former coach of Moan’s on Granåsen Skiteam, says he quickly noticed the young man’s potential.

“I worked at a high school that was next to his school,” Moen says. “I saw a young kid that could go far in any sport because he was fearless and had such energy. Fortunately for the sport, he chose Nordic combined.”

A popular athlete

In his native Norway, Magnus Moan is a popular athlete who’s not afraid to show his true feelings or speak straight from the heart after disappointments. And there have been disappointments.

“My best friend, my wife, has always been there for me,” he says. “When the negative thoughts creep up, I try to turn them into something positive. If I succeed, it will be as much a victory for my family and everybody else who has been supporting me as it is for myself.”

With all his experience, Moan has been able to reduce his training hours and focus on quality instead. He says that on average, he trains around 800 hours a year.

“When I made the Norwegian national team, we trained over a thousand hours a year,” he says. “I do not need that much now, but I need to do some groundwork to perform at the Olympics.”

Even with all his success, in hindsight there are things Moan would do differently.

“I’d tell the young me to let go more, not hold back in competitions but instead just enjoy the moment that I’ve worked so hard for,” he says.

Quality rather than quantity. Moan trains around 800 hours per year. Photo: Lena Johnsen

One more Olympic Games

At 32, Moan hopes to compete in at least one more Olympic Games, in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in 2018. He’d also like to raise the sport’s profile, at least a little bit.

“Because our sport is so small, we need to promote ourselves and remember that we’re in the entertainment business,” Moan says.

After 2018, it’s anybody’s guess, as Moan’s plans aren’t yet crystal clear.

“Ski jumping and skiing have been such a big part of my life,” he says. “After my career, who knows what will happen, but I’d like to work with people. I’ll still be the same Magnus who’s spontaneous, enthusiastic, and living in the moment. 

“And I’ll spend time with my kids,” he concludes.

 

By: Øysten Tronstad

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