Alpine Young Guns: Henrik Kristoffersen
By Michael Mastarciyan
When you have a nickname like “Wild Child” there are certain expectations that have to be met:
1. You have to be wild.
2. You have to be a child.
Unfortunately however, despite its inherent coolness, this nickname has a built-in expiry date that kicks in when the bearer turns eighteen and become an adult - as Norwegian racer Henrik “The Wild Child” Kristoffersen found out this past July.
During a recent conversation with Mr. Kristoffersen (yes the same Mr. Kristoffersen who won gold in GS and silvers in combined and slalom at the FIS Junior World Ski Championships in Roccaraso, Italy last March) I brought up the subject of his newly expired nickname - here’s how the conversation went...
MM: Henrik, your “Wild Child” nickname is no longer valid as you’re no longer a child, how about a new one more suited to an adult like “Wild Thing” - that’s the nickname Charlie Sheen had in the baseball movie Major League? You and Charlie Sheen have anything in common? He’s a pretty wild guy on and off the screen?
HK: Uhhhh, probably not a good idea as Charlie Sheen and I are not really similar. I don’t drink alcohol, I don't party, and I’m not wild in that way. The wildest things I do are on the snow, with my skis. I'm not the kid that parties and goes wild and crazy. That's not how you get to the top of alpine skiing or any sport.
MM: Makes sense...how did you get the nickname then?
HK: Well I don't know exactly how I got the nickname "The Wild Child". When I was younger, I was pretty wild, at school and at home. I couldn't sit still and I had a lot of energy. I often hurt myself and did some wild things, but now I'm older and more calm.
MM: Who gave you the nickname?
HK: I think the guys back at school gave it to me when I was around twelve years old.
MM: What’s the wildest thing you hope to do in the future?
HK: Well the wildest thing I hope to do is on skis. Olympic gold is pretty wild if you ask me, and the more gold and victories the wilder it gets!
MM: Are you kind of sad that your “Wild Child” nickname is no longer applicable because of your age now?
HK: Actually I disagree (he says with a smile) because I think I’ll always be “The Wild Child”. A lot of coaches on the Europa Cup also call me “Babyface”, so I think I’ll be able to keep the nickname!
MM: What about “Babyface” then as a new nickname? Kinda has a cool ring to it no? There’s even an American R&B singer named Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds and he’s 53-years-old! Thoughts?
HK: Well I don’t now, what people use as a nickname doesn’t matter. Wild Child or Babyface, I’m still going to be the same person.
MM: Okay let’s talk ski racing...you tore it up at Junior Worlds in Italy this past March with gold in GS and silver medals in Combined and Slalom - how did that feel?
HK: Well it was great! The first surprise came at the super-G, 6th place was awesome. Totally unexpected and I was skiing great! The GS season hadn’t been going that good so far, but I was skiing pretty good during training before the race. I must say I was a little bit surprised in the GS, because guys like Stefan Luitz and Mathieu Faivre had been winning Europa Cup races. Winning the GS was amazing, my first Jr. World Gold and I’m really happy it was in GS, because that tells me that I’m not only good in SL but also in GS and super-G.
MM: Did you have any family or friends in the stands? Did you have a big celebration afterward?
HK: My dad was there. He has been my coach since I started, and I felt more comfortable having him there. And of course I had my skiing friends there. We didn’t have a big celebration afterwards. After the SL we went straight to Kranjska Gora for the World Cup and Europa Cup.
MM: You also won two Europa Cup Slalom races in two days last February; did that give you any extra confidence going into Junior Worlds?
HK: For sure it did. My two first Europa Cup wins were amazing. I think I had more confidence going in to the slalom than the GS, but any way the Junior Worlds went great.
MM: Your Junior Worlds GS victory got you into World Cup Finals in Schladming, what was that experience like?
HK: Well since I crashed in the first run, I was a little bit disappointed. The second run did make up for it a bit, but it would have been nice to finish two solid runs and see how I had done. But with the 4th best time in the second run, it was okay and I was happy.
MM: That GS race was also Didier Cuche’s last race, did you get to meet him?
HK: Yes I met him before the first run and he congratulated me for my Junior World successes and that was pretty cool. I also got to take a picture with him after the second run. Didier was an amazing ski racer and I’m so happy to have met him before he finished his career.
MM: Did you have any ski racing idols growing up?
HK: Yes, Kjetil Andre Aamodt was and is my big idol. I know him a little bit now and he’s an amazing guy. I just hope to be as good as he was one day.
MM: Success in tech events is tough because you have to be consistent - one run may be good, but two good ones are the key to victory. Is there a secret formula you can share?
HK: Well I think there is no secret formula. The thing that makes you consistent is all the runs you put down in training. Look at Kostelic, he puts down more run’s then anyone else and he is for sure the most consistent skier in the world.
MM: Norwegian ski racers tend to be very skilled in all the disciplines - at least the great ones. We know you’re very comfortable on the tech side - how are you on the speed side? Do you like going fast?
HK: I like to go fast. For sure I like to ski on the long skis. I am not the best on the speed skis because I have some problems with the gliding part. I think speed is fun, and I’m looking forward to skiing it in the Nationals and stuff. But there is a very, very, very long way to go on the speed skis.
MM: Nerves are a big part of any sport - are you ever nervous?
HK: Oh, I get so nervous. I think getting nervous is a good thing, you are more focused and concentrated when you are a little bit nervous. Of course you can’t get too nervous, because that’s no good. I’m always a little nervous before any race.
MM: Do you have any race advice for younger skiers coming up the ranks?
HK: Just try to do the same things in the race as you try to do during training. Normal is good enough. Just make things simple and be smart.
MM: What’s the best piece of ski racing advice you’ve been given so far in your career?
HK: I think my dad has given me my best advice. He’s always told me to “do things simple, don’t try to ski cool. Just keep it simple.” I think that’s the smartest advice in the world. People are thinking too much and trying to ski cool, not good. When people are looking at Kostelic they think that he’s not the one that is skiing the coolest, it’s much cooler to watch Ligety in SL. But Kostelic is stable and skiing so good technically, and that’s the important part.
MM: Your fellow countrymen Aksel Lund Svindal and Kjetil Jansrud are two of the best skiers on the World Cup, and they’ve got reputations as two of the friendliest and most down-to-earth racers on the White Circus, have they given you any advice?
HK: Aksel told me not to stress with the weight, because I’m pretty skinny. He thinks in SL there’s no reason to get really big, really quick. For sure I need to get bigger, but I’m going to take my time with that.
MM: What’s the biggest thing you learned last season that’ll you’ll use this coming season?
HK: I need to learn to rest when I can. I think at the end of the season, around the end of the Junior Worlds, Europa Cup and World Cup, I was pretty tired. That the biggest thing I need to learn - without the rest the body doesn’t work that good and it’s important that the body is working.
MM: Speaking of this coming season, what’s the plan, a mix of Europa Cup and World Cup?
HK: We have to see how it goes, but I think it’s going to be a mix. The goal is to take WC points in SL and GS. I have a good chance in SL and an okay chance in GS. And I also think it’s important for me to do good in the Europa Cup. To get stable top 10s in EC is important. But like I said, we have to see how it goes during the season.
MM: What do you like to do when you’re not ski racing? Any other passions?
HK: I really like to ride my bike and I also like motocross. I think it’s important to do all sorts of things. It’s good to be good athletic. I got my first motocross bike when I was five years old and I have always enjoyed it.
MM: If you could ride a chairlift with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?
HK: Ingemar Stenmark is a big ski racer. With 86 world cup victories, that could be cool.
MM: Have you taken any holidays during the off-season? Do anything “Wild”?
HK: I have always used the holidays for training and I always hope to do it that way. But of course it’s good with some days off. A week in the warm weather is always nice.
MM: How is off-season training going?
HK: The off-season training is going well. I had some days in Norway and Hintertux. Trying out the new GS skis and it’s working good so far. Been in Saas-Fee since the 11th of September and I’m really liking that.
All photos private