Athlete of the Week: Mikko Kokslien (NOR)
There is probably no better venue to finish a weekend with an individual victory and a second place than Chaux-Neuve. This year, Norwegian Mikko Kokslien got to enjoy exactly this experience. Boosted by the enthusiastic massive crowd in the tiny French village and home base of Olympic and World Champion Jason Lamy Chappuis, our Athlete of the Week was nearly unstoppable.
"I have been dreaming about winning here before and I have been pretty close but never quite there. Usually Jason has been in front of me", a happy Kokslien laughed in the press conference after his first season victory on Saturday. "It's probably the best place where we have races, with this crowd. It's an honour to have a victory here."
An enthusiastic crowd of about 15.000 was a beautiful backdrop and provided extra motivation for all athletes. Not that the 28-year-old Norwegian, who is an extremely fast cross-country skier, needed extra speed on the track. What made Kokslien a winner this weekend was a stable, good jump which put him inside the Top 20 after the jumping part and only just over one minute behind the leaders.
Kokslien, who can make up two minutes of time behind on a 10-kilometre-track on a good day, proved to be fast, efficient and had an excellent eye for reading the race on Chaux-Neuve's 1,5-kilometre loop. In the Individual as well as in the Team Sprint, he worked his way to the leading group patiently and pounced at the right moment, overtaking his teammate Magnus Krog on the uphill before the stadium, giving him the few metres of advantage he needed to cross the finish line first. "The reason why I am skiing fast is that I have done some steps in the technical part. I am not as strong as I maybe have been in the past but still I am skiing faster", he explains.
Attesting to the great team spirit in the Norwegian success squad, the thing Kokslien seemed to enjoy most about his victory was the company of his teammates Magnus Krog and Joergen Graabak on the podium. "I am happy to share the podium with two of my good friends, it's just amazing. Fantastic day!"
Usually known to be strong at Austrian venues of Seefeld and Ramsau, Mikko Kokslien has strayed a bit from his usual preferences but also has a good explanation why competing in Chaux-Neuve is working well for him: "In the World Cup B, back in the days I have won two races in two days here and it also was in the same conditions. It's probably the red wine we get served here in Chaux-Neuve that makes the difference."
There's no information if the Russian vodka of Sochi works in a similarly positive way for Kokslien but either way with the qualities described above and quiet self-confidence which Kokslien is oozing, everybody who wants a medal in Sochi will have to watch over their shoulders in the cross-country race. A charging Norwegian will come from behind for sure.
Watch our Athlete of the Week walk you through the upcoming Nordic Combined TRIPLE here: