LILLEHAMMER (VG) Sprint national team coach Arild Monsen has been busy taking care of Johannes Høsflot Klæbo (25) due to the sponsorship conflict last week.
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Klæbo fought back with a completely superior victory in the sprint in Lillehammer on Friday. The 25-year-old had plenty of time to celebrate before he crossed the finish line first.
A little 24 hours earlier he met the press without a single smile. Sprint national team coach Monsen has feared the consequences of the drama between the management in cross-country skiing and Klæbo, which ended with Klæbo against his will having to advertise the licensee Viaplay on the ski suit.
– He is not allowed to pull out. That has been the most important thing for me. I have just made sure that he has not disappeared, Monsen told the press after the sprint on Friday.
– What do you mean by “not allowed to withdraw from the team”?
– It could have been a consequence of all the riots. It is my responsibility as a leader that he does not react in such a way that he disappears. Then things happen, like what has happened, then I just have to make sure he does not disappear, Monsen answers VG.
– What do you mean by disappearing?
– That he goes to the room and eats at his own times, Monsen answers.
The sprint national team coach emphasizes that Klæbo did not withdraw. He ate at the long table with the others. He was in place.
During the World Cup opening last weekend, Klæbo went without the sponsor logo to the cross-country national team’s new sponsor Viaplay. The TV channel is also the licensee. Klæbo thinks this is problematic. Adresseavisen revealed the conflict between the ski association and Norway’s best male cross-country skier.
Monsen says that Klæbo had a good training session on Thursday, and that they had a good and honest chat in the car on the way back from training at the ski stadium.
– I said that we must concentrate on what is going to happen here with the start number, so you can handle the other in the best possible way. I have not been deep in those discussions. My job is that he feels as good as possible, and does not become a lone swallow, but part of the team, says Monsen in the press zone where the press meets athletes and coaches.
For Monsen was afraid that the consequence of the noise was that Klæbo would withdraw.
– What can easily happen is that you drop out and then you have a match inside. If I suspect that, then I am even more vigilant, says Monsen.
This is what Martin Johnsrud Sundby thinks about the future of Klæbo:
The smile was back at Klæbo after the victory and he had many words to offer about the coach after the victory.
– Arild is a good man. He is an important supporter of our team. He is the one who definitely knows how to handle different situations. He should have all the credit for the way he behaves and how it is. I’m terribly glad I know him and have him as a coach, says Klæbo.
The 25-year-old who won three golds in the previous Olympics said after the victory that the sponsorship conflict with the association has cost a lot.
– I am very happy that I can turn around. I have spent a lot of energy and time skiing as fast as possible today. That’s what I’m being measured on. To manage it is a good feeling that you have control over your head in important situations and the body is where it should be, says Klæbo.
On Saturday it is 15 kilometers for the men. The World Cup weekend ends with a relay on Sunday.
PS! Thomas Helland Larsen is a roommate with Klæbo in Lillehammer. He clinked and finished second in the sprint. Frenchman Richard Jouve finished third.