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Norway faces cross-country selection dilemma

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 3, 2014 at 12:10 pm •  Published: February 3, 2014

Norway's unrivaled depth in cross-country skiing is causing the team some problems ahead of the Sochi Olympics.

With a handful of medal contenders in nearly every cross-country event, the Norwegian team selectors face the prospect of having to drop either a double Olympic champion or a former world champion from the men's individual sprint race.

Each team can enter four skiers, and Norway's coaches have already promised spots to three athletes based on their previous results this season. The fourth was set to go to Petter Northug, the team's big star who has struggled with illness this season but sees the sprint race as his best chance at a gold medal.

But then former sprint world champion Ola Vigen Hattestad suddenly found a return to form by winning the last World Cup race before Sochi in Italy last weekend — his first individual victory since 2011 — to make a strong claim for the fourth spot.

Now, less than a week before the Olympics start, the selection dilemma is threatening to disrupt the team's preparations.

"It was stupid to put me up against Petter," Hattestad told Norwegian media after his victory. "I was angry when I found out they had selected three beforehand. They've put themselves in a very difficult situation."

On the women's side, the skier who is second in the overall World Cup standings — Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen — has already been dropped from the opening skiathlon event on Saturday. The women's team is even more stacked than the men's, with Norwegians occupying the top four spots in the overall World Cup standings.

And in Norway, where cross-country skiing is a national sport and a must-see event at the Olympics, these are the types of decisions that create front-page headlines and fierce social media debates.

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