Petter Northug finds anonymity at World Cup race in Canmore
'I can walk out in the streets like a normal guy,' says Nordic skier
One of Norway's most famous celebrities is in Alberta this week, and he's not a movie star, rock star or an elite soccer player.
He's a lightning bolt on skis — nordic skis, that is.
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"In Canada you have the hockey players. In Europe we have the soccer players who are very famous. Petter Northug is on that level," said Birger Lofaldli, a Norwegian journalist covering the World Cup in Canmore this week.
"I would say he's the most famous person in Norway right now."
Northug, 30, has had a hugely successful career both as a cross-country skier and a celebrity.
He's won multiple Olympic and World Championship medals, including two golds in Vancouver in 2010.
Back home, his name and face grace products from juice to clothes to bread.
"In Norway everybody knows who I am, so I'm pretty happy to be here in Canada. I can walk out in the streets like a normal guy," the ski star told CBC News.
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Norway's bad boy
He jokes with the press, says what he wants and does what he wants.
That's what Lofaldli says makes Northug "so special."
"[There's been] lots of conflicts between Northug and the Norwegian National Ski Federation because he has had a lot of controversial sponsors," said Lofaldli
In 2014, Northug was sentenced to 50 days in jail for drinking and driving.
But that hasn't dampened Norway's interest in him.
Lofaldi estimates more than one-million Norwegians — or one-fifth of the nation — will be turning on their televisions to watch the World Cup finals on March 12 from the Canmore Nordic Centre.
'A real honour' for Canmore
This is the first time in history that the sport's World Cup winners will be crowned outside of Europe.
Norbert Meier, chair of Ski Tour Canada 2016, said this finale is "the event of the season" in a year with no Olympics and no World Championships.
He estimates that 30 million to 40 million people worldwide will watch as more than 150 world-class athletes compete over the next four days.
"To be at the end of the season is a real honour, and we're just thrilled to be able to be given that chance."