Four letters make up KJUS
Lasse Kjus, an Alpine skiing champion retired from competition for almost two years, is 37 today. Despite a career punctuated by several injuries and recurrent health problems, the Norwegian was always able to bounce back. This solid man from the North stepped on to the Olympic podium five times in as many participations in the Games. His career places him amongst the Alpines skiers who have won the most medals at the Winter Games, alongside, for example, his compatriot Kjetil Andre Aamodt, Italy’s Alberto Tomba and Austria’s Hermann Maier and Stephan Eberharter. Let’s take a closer look at these four letters that regularly lit up the top of the scoreboard for more than 15 years.
K for Kjetil
Since Eriksen and Berge at the Olympic Winter Games in Oslo in 1952, no Norwegian had mounted the Olympic podium in Alpine skiing until the arrival of the new wave including Kjus and Aamodt 40 years later. Although these two athletes raced each other on the slopes, this did not stop them from being friends in real life. Born the same year in the city of Oslo, they shared the same first coach: Finn Aamodt, Kjetil’s father. At the Junior World Championships in 1990 in Zinal in Switzerland, they already showed their talent by snapping up eight medals between them. The two skiers both made their first appearance at the Winter Games in Albertville in 1992. While Aamodt won two medals, Kjus would have to wait for two years and the Lillehammer Games to pocket a precious Olympic medal: there he exelled in the Alpine combined ahead of his buddy Aamodt and a third Norwegian, Strand Nilsen. The three skiers thus achieved the second men’s triple in Olympic Alpine skiing history, after Austria’s Sailer, Molterer and Schuster in Cortina d’Ampezzo in 1956.
J for Japan
In Nagano in 1998, the storm raged so forcefully that the events schedule for Alpine skiing had to be modified: the men’s downhill and downhill combined took place on the same day. Friday the 13th brought luck to Kjus as he won silver in the downhill on a very technical course – which only 28 competitors out of 43 finished – designed by former Olympic champion, Switzerland’s Bernard Russi. On super strong legs, Kjus took the silver again in the combined event, achieving the feat of winning two medals on the same day.
Lasse Kjus was present in 2002 in Salt Lake City, where he once again took the silver in the downhill and won bronze in the giant slalom. At first uncertain of being able to take part owing to respiratory problems, Kjus ended his Olympic career at the Turin Games in 2006 with an 18th place after two rounds of the giant slalom.
U for Universal
Kjus was among the skiers at ease in all the events of Alpine skiing. From tight bends in the slalom to dazzling schusses in the downhill, the Norwegian came up trumps. The most blatant proof of his many talents was demonstrated in 1999 at the World Championships in Vail, USA, where he won five medals – two gold and three silver – in each of the events on the programme: slalom, giant slalom, super-G, downhill and alpine combined.
S for Star
Competing in all the events, overcoming injuries and health problems, straining his thighs in schusses for long minutes, slaloming tightly, relishing in 5 Olympic and 11 World Championships medals, standing out with two titles in the general ranking of the World Cup (1996, 1999) - there’s no doubt about it: Lasse Kjus is brilliant.
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