Making history by becoming the youngest medallist in Olympic alpine skiing history, Austria-based Norwegian Henrik Kristoffersen is an avid motocross rider and a proud ambassador for Husqvarna Motorcycles.
The ‘Wild Child’ has grown up. He started his professional skiing career aged 17, winning his first race and one of the biggest alpine ski events there is – the night race in Schladming. Husqvarna Motorcycles brand ambassador Henrik Kristoffersen spoke to us about growing up, moving to Austria, training, trust, the upcoming season and the Olympic games. Also in conversation was his passion for MX, his nickname and ‘maybe’ auditioning to become a factory rider– we met the Norwegian trackside at the X-BOWL in Salzburg.
Henrik, you recently moved to Salzburg. How do you like the city, Austria, and why did you decide to live here?
“It was a part practical, part emotional decision. Practical because Salzburg is situated much more central than Norway is. During the season, I used to spend a lot of time in hotels, which I felt was not the ideal situation. Living in Salzburg is much more convenient for training at Reiteralm and I don’t have to drag my stuff back and forth from Norway. Plus, I have my own space to relax, which is of course much better than living out of a suitcase for 200 days or more each year. Emotionally I moved to Salzburg because it’s a beautiful city with a very open-minded and international crowd.”
So, no culture shock?
“Not too much – I think that the Norwegian and Austrian mindset and culture is quite similar. I also spent a lot of time in Austria so I was quite familiar with the country before I moved here – language-wise I get by with the German that I speak, so everything’s fine.”
Do you feel at home?
I am starting to, it always takes time if you move somewhere, no matter what city/country, I guess. It definitely helps that I spent time here before, so that will speed up the process of feeling at home.”
Talking about next season, what do you think about the new skis and what are the differences?
“Due to the recent changes, the skis will have a 30-metre radius instead of 35 meters, which of course is a big difference when it comes to timing and line, as they turn much faster. It’s quite hard to get used to them. Everyone is quite stressed out to find the right equipment, but before the season starts it will be fine.”
That’s the reason you were even busier than usual during the last few months?
“Exactly, with the Olympic Games in South Korea and the full world-cup season ahead it means a lot more effort for me, especially in the summer. I trained hard, gained some weight and did on-snow testing/training of the new skis in order to be ready for both. I also focused on training giant slalom, as that is the discipline I need to improve on most to be able to take on the top guys such as Alexis and Marcel. Especially when it comes to the world-cup overall rankings.”
Speaking of your competitors, what’s your secret plan for beating all of them?
“I do not have a “secret” plan, there are no secrets, only hard work. As I said earlier GS is a priority this year, not only because of the new skis but also I need to develop my GS skiing. To compete with the best in GS I have to be better technically, more powerful, more direct in my skiing. This is a big goal for my GS skiing this year.”
How and when did your passion for motocross start?
“Well, my dad started riding motocross when he was 13 or 14 years old, basically because my grandfather told him that riding on the streets will not happen. He got his license later though, but the passion for motocross remained until this day. Back when I was a little boy I remember going into the garage and there was this ‘thing’ hidden under a tarp, which I was afraid of back then – today I know it was not a monster, it was a Husqvarna motocross bike. That was one of my first encounters with motocross and I think that is what started it all. I started watching VHS videos my dad had at home like Dirt-Demons and eventually wore them out as I watched them so often. Shortly before I turned six I got my fist Husqvarna 50cc MX bike and I have been riding ever since.”
That was about the time when the nickname ‘Wild Child’ came up?
“Yeah, my time in school was quite difficult as I couldn’t sit still and I was all over the place all the time. I always had this urge to move, so it was quite hard for me, being used to skiing and riding motocross, to be told to sit still, listen and focus for a couple of hours a day. The result of my behaviour back then was that nickname, and I liked it a lot - but now it feels quite outdated I think.”
Are you not ‘wild’ anymore?
“Not in that way, I do still believe that moderation is for cowards and I want to do my own thing and not what everyone else does. Over the last few years, especially last year, I think that I have grown up a lot as a person and have lost quite a bit of that impatience, although sometimes it still flashes up.”
“Being a professional athlete, starting at that young age, time just flies. After my first win in Schladming I was quite overwhelmed by the sudden popularity, media attention and expectations – that plus the time I spend training, travelling and racing kind of keeps you away from life outside of the sport. Legal stuff, dealing with authorities, the business and other things I never really had to deal with, but this last year with moving away from home has helped me learn a lot and therefore grow up.”
Your father usually takes or took care of that, as he is your manager?
“I don’t see him as my manager at all, he is my dad and my coach and yes, he did and still does take care of a lot of things surrounding my career. To some degree it is necessary in order for me to be able to stay focused – I would not be where I am today without him and family and I would not want anyone else taking care of my stuff.”
“For me it is a matter of trust. My father will always be my father, whilst a manager that I would hire can be someone else’s manager probably within a couple of days. Blood is thicker than water, and I just need to be sure that I can 100% trust the person taking care of all paperwork and other things necessary for me to remain focused on the sport.”
Speaking of sport – you just did two rounds of about 25 minutes at the X-BOWL here in Salzburg, how does motocross support your training for skiing?
“I think that motocross is one of the most physically demanding sports that exist. It’s a great cardio and muscle training, especially for the core muscles, and trains balance as well as coordination - so basically everything I also need for skiing. The best thing about it is that combines the training with a lot of adrenaline and fun. I have huge respect for the professional riders, as I can barely even imagine how hard it must be to train and race all the time, given their schedule.”
How do you like your new training tool?
“I love it! The Husqvarna FC 250 is super lightweight, agile, powerful and the handling is awesome. Especially for me, since in winter I have to take a break from riding motocross. It’s perfect because I hop on it in spring and ride away without having to get too much used to it again. The WP AER 48 suspension is awesome and easy to adjust for my needs, and I love the electric starter as it comes in handy sometimes, especially when I haven’t ridden for a little while (laughs).”
How do you feel about the brand Husqvarna Motorcycles in general? Especially for you being from Scandinavia?
“Well, Husqvarna is a Swedish brand with a huge heritage. I grew up riding Husqvarna’s and saw my dad riding them back then and today, so I basically think I got ‘programmed’ during my youth. I really enjoy seeing how the brand has evolved since 2013, I think that it is more ‘Swedish’ now than it has been in the time before. The colours, the pictures you see and the whole appearance is very appealing and as I already said, the motorcycles and quality are awesome. I also find it funny how my dad and I are still riding the Husqvarna’s on the tracks and in the wilderness like we did back when I was very young. I am very happy that we can do that on motorcycles of a brand that we can identify ourselves with.”
Do you follow some races or riders?
“I am a huge fan of motorcycle sports in general, especially motocross. I follow a lot of the races on TV or at the tracks whenever time permits. Sometimes I even have split-screen on the TV with skiing on one side and MX on the other. I follow riders like Jason Anderson, Zack Osborne, Max Nagl, Gautier Paulin, Kjer Olsen and Graham Jarvis and others, whether it’s Supercross, MX, Enduro or the Dakar I just love to watch how these crazy guys make it look so easy. In terms of races all I will say is this year’s Supercross in Las Vegas was absolutely insane. I also follow MXGP a lot as the level of competition is enormous and the races are exciting every time.”
Let`s assume for a second that you would have become a professional motorcyclist, what would be your discipline?
“It would be offroad for sure, and motocross. I personally think it’s the pinnacle of the sport with the most action, adrenaline, audience and the most challenging discipline when it comes to being focused and being mentally and physically fit. All disciplines require pretty much the same skills to some degree and I have mad respect for all riders, but I would go for motocross.”
So, if at some point, you get tired of skiing you would audition to become a factory rider?
“(laughs) I strongly doubt that I will get tired of skiing and I am nowhere close to doing what the guys are able to do. But, theoretically, if I had the chance and would be able to get somewhere near to the performance required, I would love to be a part of the team. But that would be a long long way for me, so I’d rather stay on skis for now.”