Ola Johansen has already put together a sensational career with the Colorado ski team.
As the senior enters his final weekend with the Buffaloes, however, there’s still a void he wants to fill.
“We’ve been second two years in a row now, so a win is the only thing that matters,” he said.
Johansen and the rest the talented Buffs will take aim at the 21st skiing national championship in school history this week at the NCAA championships, held in Steamboat Springs, beginning Wednesday and wrapping up on Saturday.
The Buffs feature David Ketterer, who is the defending national champion in the men’s giant slalom and slalom, and Petra Hyncicova, the defending national champion in the classical and freestyle Nordic races.
CU also has four-time All-American Petter Reistad in men’s Nordic; two-time All-American Max Luukko in men’s Alpine; two-time All-American Nora Christensen in women’s Alpine; two-time All-American Christina Rolandsen in women’s Nordic; and All-American Tonje Trulsrud, who was the Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association (RMISA) MVP in women’s Alpine this season.
Johansen, meanwhile, comes into the nationals riding the momentum of perhaps his best season with the Buffaloes.
A native of Baerum, Norway, Johansen won the RMISA men’s Alpine MVP award for the second time in his career (also 2016), and he’s finished first or second in seven of his 12 races.
“I feel good (coming into nationals),” he said. “I know what it’s all about and I had a good season, so I feel confident and comfortable coming in.”
Johansen would like to make up for a tough finish to his 2017 season, as he was 14th in slalom and failed to finish in the giant slalom.
“Last year, I had some injuries and I didn’t feel not even close to as confident as this year,” he said.
His confidence was built up during the offseason, he said, as he trained with his teammates.
“We had a lot of good year-round training and then we had a good preseason,” he said. “The whole team has been working very well together. That whole package just gave me confidence and a good base coming into the season and then I’ve just built on the good races in the beginning.”
As his season has gone along, Johansen has continued to post great results and has been a leader for the men’s alpine team.
“He was building throughout his career and this is culminating his race career,” CU coach Richard Rokos said. “He was in similar position last year and the year before, skiing well and skiing fast and had a little bad luck. Let’s hope that luck will stay on his side and he will ski to his standard.”
Going into this weekend, Johansen’s standard is simply to do his best to help the team claim its first title since 2015.
“Of course it’s going to be different and probably a little sentimental, as well,” he said of his final races with CU. “I just have to try to make the best of it and enjoy every minute of it.
“The team is the most important. Of course individual (winning) is fun, and I think if I do well individually I do well for the team, but I’d rather have a team win than an individual win.”
Rokos would love another team win, as well. The Buffs will battle some of the usual contenders, including defending champion Utah and local rival (and 2016 champ) Denver. Vermont, New Mexico and Montana State are also expected to be top competitors.
“Any of those teams can step forward on any given day,” he said. “It’s a matter of luck and also how well they are prepared. I’m pretty convinced that everybody is on the same level at this point.”