Four competitions weekends spanning two months into the season, the performances of 22-year-old Norwegian Jarl Magnus Riiber are nothing but impressive and even with competition breaks, changes between large and normal hills or in different competition formats, the Norwegian does not show any signs of stopping.
Yes, Riiber is still also only human as two defeats by Germany’s rising star Vinzenz Geiger showed in Ramsau am Dachstein (AUT) and last weekend in Val di Fiemme (ITA). But an athlete whose worst ranking is second in mid-January of any season is doing many things right.
So what makes the “System Riiber” work? In contrast to last season, Riiber’s jumping performances are nearly flawless and set the bar for the rest of the competitors really high. After gathering much experience with lonely races from the pole position, Riiber knows his level of performance on the cross-country track and is not afraid of going his own pace at the head of the field. As a complete Nordic Combined athlete, his skiing prowess is strong enough that many fast and experienced skiers like Graabak, Geiger, Frenzel or Herola think twice when it comes to going for closing the gap to Riiber or securing a second- or third-place finish within the pursuing group.
Riiber’s achilles heel might be the final metres of the race. If he is actually caught by a group, sprinting for the victory is not his forte and other skiers like Geiger or Graabak will outperform him in an even sprint. He big bonus is a team of strong ski jumpers who control the pursuing group and, in a show of team thinking in an individual sport, try not help other fast skiers to close the gap.
Even though he picked a season without any highlights to assert complete dominance over the field, Riiber’s performances in the winter 2019/20 will not be forgotten and most likely remain a standard which future greatness is measured against.
Hats off for our Athlete of the Week: The current King of Nordic Combined - Jarl Magnus Riiber.