Is World’s Best Ski Marathoner Preparing Comeback?

The anticipation of the CAS verdict on Therese Johaug case have eclipsed another event of note in Norwegian skiing:

Petter Eliassen is back! Well, kind of.

For those of our readers, who are not following the ski marathons as closely as they deserve to be followed, a quick reminder: Eliassen is, arguably, the strongest long distance skier of the last five seasons. Won Vasaloppet, Jizerska and overall Visma Ski Classic titles. Many a skier the world over are still rewatching his Birkebeinerrennet 2015 duel with Martin Jonsrud Sundby, that the former won.

Eliassen was particularly popular for his distinct racing style: not a strong finisher, he’s known to kick the tempo into the high gear mid-distance and run to victory. Lots of times it worked – other times strong finishers would tag along behind Eliassen’s mighty back to shoot to victory at the last stretch.

So when after winning in that fashion the last race of the Visma Ski Classics 2017 season, a grueling Ylläs-Levi race in Finland, Eliassen announced his retirement from elite sport, there was many a skiing fan who felt sad – the Norwegian is only 31, barely out of junior age by the ski marathon standards.

True, Eliassen’s team, Leaseplan have announced its closure soon after – but any other pro-team or skiing club would jump at the chance to have Petter in its ranks. He, however, turned down all the offers and, most assumed, went to build his new career: Eliassen has a diploma of a physical therapist.

Yet last weekend the name ‘Eliassen’ has suddenly appeared in the finishing protocol of one of the world’s toughest uphill running races: Halddemarsjen.

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The race to the top of the Halddetoppen mountain is “just” 8.4 kilometers – but it goes from 65 meters above sea level to 907 meters – a climb of some 10% with a particularly nasty uphill of 20% towards the end.

You are interested in knowing Eliassen’s place at the finish line? First, naturally ! Well ahead of brothers Nygaard ( Bjørn Thomas is a world class mountain runner – Andreas is one of the strongest Visma Ski Classics marathoners) and a very strong Swedish OCR runner Linus Hultegård.

That sort of performance doesn’t look at all like a result shown by a retired “weekend warrior” – in fact, it’s one of the best Halddemarsjen times ever. Is Eliassen planning a comeback next season? His fans would be absolutely thrilled.

Top Photo Courtesy of Bjørn Thomas Nygaard Instagram account

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