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Johannes Klæbo’s changing popularity and the challenges of independence

Norwegian cross-country skiing sensation Johannes Høsflot Klæbo’s journey has been marked by both exceptional achievements on the snow and a unique approach to his sport. His choice to leave the Norwegian national cross-country skiing team and embark on a solitary, high-altitude training regimen with his family has raised eyebrows and brought about intriguing changes in his popularity in Norway’s sporting landscape.

Photo: Petter Arvidson/Bildbyrån

Johannes Høsflot Klæbo (NOR) during the 2023 World Championships in Planica

Sponsor Insight, a reputable source for tracking the popularity of Norwegian athletes, has revealed a significant shift in Johannes Klæbo’s status. From May to September last year, he held the prestigious third position in the popularity ranking. However, he has since dropped to seventh place, witnessing a five-percentage-point decline compared to 2022.

Karsten Warholm, the dynamic hurdler, has surged to the top of the popularity charts, closely followed by biathlete Johannes Thingnes Bø, Paralympic rowing champion Birgit Skarstein, and the remarkable distance runner Jakob Ingebrigtsen. Surprisingly, even with his adjusted standing, Klæbo now finds himself trailing the likes of Tarjei Bø and Arsenal footballer Martin Ødegaard. The top 10 list is rounded out by prominent figures such as Manchester City’s Erling Haaland, tennis sensation Casper Ruud, and handball player Nora Mørk.

Comprehending the dynamics behind this shift in Klæbo’s popularity is not straightforward. While improved athletic performance could be a logical explanation, it’s intriguing to note that other Norwegian athletes, including the Bø brothers and Ingebrigtsen, have maintained consistent results over the years. Vegard Arntsen, the director of Sponsor Insight, speculates that Klæbo’s shift in focus from sporting achievements to less sports-related matters, which might not be entirely transparent to the public, could influence his popularity. Notably, Klæbo retains a strong presence as the second-most popular athlete among the youngest age group, aged 18 to 29, with only Erling Haaland ahead of him.

Another factor potentially affecting Klæbo’s popularity is his ongoing conflict with the Norwegian Ski Association. This dispute, which has been ongoing for months, has garnered substantial attention outside the sporting arena, and its complexity may contribute to the drop in Klæbo’s favor.

Read More – Klæbo’s candid insights: Podcast reveals athlete’s determination and concerns

Notable figures within the sports world have weighed in on this shift. TV 2’s cross-country expert, Petter Northug, suggests that Klæbo’s reputation has been affected by the ongoing conflict, and public opinion has evolved. Northug himself faced a similar situation when he broke ties with the national team, emphasizing that athletes in such circumstances often get labeled negatively, with misunderstandings about their motives. Northug points out that while the conflict may seem financially driven, it’s not always about the money, echoing Klæbo’s own assertions.

In conclusion, Johannes Klæbo’s evolving popularity is a complex and multifaceted story. His unique approach to training and his recent conflicts have impacted his standing in the public eye. Despite the challenges he faces, Klæbo’s unwavering dedication to his sport and his distinctive methods continue to inspire the younger generation of sports enthusiasts. Klæbo remains an enigmatic figure, leaving a profound imprint on the world of cross-country skiing and beyond.

Are you interested in traditional cross-country skiing? Click HERE and read more. !

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