March 23, 2017

Finn Hågen Krogh

(info about Finn Hågen Krogh)

Norwegian sport culture

Thomas Kieller

Photo – Copyright Norges Skiforbund

Finn Hågen Krogh: Cross-country skier.

Specialist of the skating technique, Finn takes part in winter races without holding back. He is continually pushing himself to the limit. Indeed, the Norwegian skier wants always to give everything he has in competition. He already won many gold medals in the World Cup tour in solo or in a team. Besides, he demonstrated many times his power in the sprint event where he has shined. Moreover, with his motivated Norwegian teammates, they triumphed in the relay 4 x 10 km at the Nordic World Ski Championships in Lahti, Finland in 2017. Being the last one to take the relay for his country, he can feel great satisfaction in a work well done. When the Norwegian cross-country team wins an important race, the whole country is lifted by the sporting achievement.

The interview took place on March 16, 2017 at 16:15 at the Hilton Hotel during the Cross-Country World Cup of the International Ski Federation (FIS) in Quebec City, Canada. It was done in English.

Prelude – After a session of training, Finn arrived in the lobby of the hotel in a relaxed manner. Without hesitation, we start our discussion about the sport culture in his country.

Cross-country in the Norwegian culture

Thomas Kieller: You were born in Alta in the North of Norway. It’s way up north! Can you tell me more about this place and do you still live there?

Finn Hågen Krogh: Yes, I’m living there. The city has approximately 20,000 persons. In Norway, it’s a decent town. There, we have six months of winter. Alta is famous for its nature and salmon fishing. The surrounding is perfect for my training in cross-country skiing. I can do a lot of running in the mountains. We have also roller ski tracks and a lot of road that we can use for roller skis. So, it is really good for training.

Thomas: You have some Norwegian and Sami ancestry. Could you tell me more about the traditional sports and the most popular ones in your country?

Finn: You mentioned the Sami culture. I have to say that it’s not a big part of my life but I have some relatives who are Sami. Well, you have reindeers skiing. Ok, it’s not big in Norway (Finn laughs while saying those words). I’ve never done it! Nevertheless, it is quite possible to do it. Still, the national sport is cross-country skiing. I don’t know exactly the list of the sports we practice but soccer is really big and handball is also there. We do well in handball, especially with the women’s team. All around Norway, there are many sport clubs where you have the chance to do cross-country skiing, soccer, handball and of course biathlon which is also big in my country.

Thomas: I understand that cross-country skiing is very popular. So, the level of competition is also high?

Finn: Yes, there are many young people who are doing it. There are definitely many good sport talents that choose cross-country skiing because it’s so popular. So, yes we have a lot of youngsters who are coming up each year. I think it’s why Norway is so good. Those newcomers are pushing, all the time, the best athletes. If one year I’m a little bit lazy, it’s for sure that someone will come and beat me. I must find ways to be better in order to stay on the national team and be in the World Cup tour.

Thomas: How does it work in Norway concerning cross-country skiing for the youth?

Finn: When you are a kid, you start with a local club. There are many volunteers all around the communities like trainers and parents who participate in the development of kids. When you get older, you can qualify for the junior team. There, you start climbing the stairs in order to reach the under 23 squad and afterwards the senior team. We have a good way to take care of the talents. For example, many of the athletes who are on the national team today were on the junior team and the U23 team. One must always take one step at a time.

Thomas: So it’s quite developed in your country?

Finn: Yes. The teams I just talked about are organized by the ski federation. We have also some regional teams (northern Norway, middle, west and east). There are a lot of opportunities for cross-country skiers to be in a team. There, they can get sponsors and do training camps.

Thomas: On the other hand, I believe you also played quite a bit of soccer in your youth...

Finn: Yes that is correct. I think as a kid it’s important to try different things. Either way, you can benefit from it. I have some benefits now from the other sports I did when I was younger. I did so much. Because of that, it’s easier for me to learn new techniques and do new things. I think if you only do one thing, you are like in your own box. It is more difficult to develop other skills. So, I think it is important for kids to try many things. Eventually when they get older, they will find out what they like best.

Thomas: Did you find some similar things from soccer and cross-country skiing?

Finn: Not so much... Well, let me say that every sport needs a big base of training. In soccer, in cross-country skiing or in any sports, you have to be patient. You need consistency in your training for many years before you can get the results. That is similar for every sport.

Also, you do a lot of running in soccer. I think it’s the best way to develop your heart and lungs. So, it’s good. Besides, for cross country-ski sprinting, it’s nice to have the rapidness in your muscles from soccer. It helps me for the sprints.

Thomas: You did those two sports in relation with the seasons...

Finn: Yes, in winter when I was younger I was skiing and in the summer I was playing soccer. In a way, I had always a season to look for. I was kind of an all-around athlete, but when I got older I had to choose. My results in skiing were better, so it was natural to choose it.

Training of a cross-country skier

Thomas: You are currently in 8th place in the overall world ranking of the FIS. You are quite good in many disciplines. However, what is your favourite discipline in your sport and why?

Finn: For sure, I like skating the best. But I think I have done better in skating sprints. The discipline (and distance) I want to be the best in is the skiathlon. The first half of the race you do 15 km of classic skiing then you change skis and you do 15 km skating to the end. In this discipline, you have to be good in everything. You have to control your classic and skating techniques. For me, it’s the most complete discipline. So, my goal in the future is to win a skiathlon.

Thomas: Do you have to specialize to have success in high level cross-country skiing?

Finn: I think it is possible to be an all-around athlete in cross-country skiing. In endurance sports, you have to do a lot of training (like low intensity workouts). Then, it is possible to learn really well both techniques (classic and skating). I think you can get good opportunities to do both techniques and do quite well.

Thomas: In order to improve your cardio-respiratory system, what kind of training do you do?

Finn: In the summer, we do a lot of roller skiing and running. We do low and high intensity training. We do both. When we do intervals, we can run up hills (really steep). We can do this as well in roller skis. We also do many variations of intervals. For example, we can do 5 times, 5 minute intervals or 3 times, 15 minute intervals. There are big differences in the way we do the training. Nevertheless, the main thing is to push hard in order to have a high heart rate. We do this preparation in order that the heart and the lungs are ready for the season.

Besides, the training amount is bigger in summer and fall. When winter comes, you need to be well rested to do well in the competitions. When we train up to 80 hours a month, we are always a little bit tired. So, during the season, we do a little bit less amount of training to be quite ready for the races.

Thomas: And for other aspects of physical conditioning, do you workout in a gym?

Finn: In the past ten years, strength has become more important in cross-country skiing because the speed in competition is higher. We have now sprints. So, you need more power now then in the old days. I go to the gym two or three times per week. I train my core, my back and also my upper body strength. It is necessary to do this because you use every muscle in your body when you do cross-country skiing.

Thomas: And what about the legs?

Finn (says happily): The legs get enough training with the running. Believe me, we always use our legs. So, sometimes, they need to rest. At the gym, they can rest a little bit.

Thomas: With your coach Arild Monsen, what do you want to improve concerning your physical conditioning and about the technical aspects of cross-country skiing?

Finn: For the last years, I want to increase my cardio. I have done well in sprints but I feel I have more to gain in the distance racing. So, maybe, I want to do longer intervals to have better endurance. I’m better in skating now. So, I want to improve my classic technique in the future.

Last words

Thomas: What do you like so much in your sport and about competitive cross-country skiing?

Finn: It’s an individual sport. In every race, I can focus on doing my best. That way, you never cross the finish line feeling that you could have done more. Actually, when you cross the finish line in cross-country skiing, you are so tired that you just want to collapse. You absolutely believe that you have given everything. Besides, you can push yourself even more than what you think. So, it’s just the feeling that I have done my best.

Thomas: Thank you very much.

Finn: Thank you.