Athlete of the Week: Espen Andersen (NOR)
It is not every day that you get to wear the yellow bib of the overall World Cup leader in Nordic Combined, especially in times, when it has almost exclusively been in the possession of one Eric Frenzel for the last five years. Norwegian Espen Andersen did not only manage to win his first World Cup in the first event in Ruka and thus capture the yellow bib once but he lost it to Akito Watabe and re-captured it one weekend later in Lillehammer by setting the second World Cup victory of his career. Add to this a victory in the Team Event in Lillehammer, an “Athlete of the Week” is more than warranted.
The 24-year-old from Oslo had good results to show for in the past season but was overshadowed by the almost almighty Germans and towards the end of the winter also by his own teammate and Olympic Champion Jørgen Graabak. Still, Andersen ended the season on a very respectable 15th rank in the overall World Cup. A fourth place in Val di Fiemme, a fifth in Ramsau and a sixth in Lillehammer brought him close to the podium but he was not quite there yet.
Andersen, a quiet and almost shy personality at first glance, is not one to draw of all the attention instantly but people getting to know him are met a wicked sense of black humour and a sharp analytical mind, paired with a funny and friendly demeanour very quickly. Part of the young generation in the Norwegian team, Andersen and the more noticeable former teen phenom Jarl Riiber are two sides of the same coin: strong ski jumpers, who can still handle their own on the cross-country track, one commanding all attention, the other striking quietly. It is no wonder, these two usually share a room and the experience of being the rookies on the team.
With the past weekend in Lillehammer, Andersen has fully emancipated himself from the more flashy Riiber or any other of the superstars of Nordic Combined and has now fully grown into an athlete to watch for. It will be interesting to see what starting in the yellow bib will do to his further development but to follow his trajectory closely in this Olympic season can only be recommended.