It may happen tomorrow. It may happen in four years’ time. But Andrew Musgrave has all the traits to become an Olympic champion, according to coach Hans Kristian Stadheim.
Given Britain’s history in the sport of cross-country skiing – no Olympic medals won and until this week no finishes inside the top 20 – that might look like blind optimism.
But Musgrave is a man on a mission – and British coach Stadheim is someone who knows what he’s talking about.
In the 30km skiathlon, Musgrave ripped up the history books, coming agonisingly close to a medal before still finishing an impressive seventh. On the podium ahead of him were three Norwegians and two of them – Olympic champion Simen Hegstad Krueger and bronze medallist Hans Christer Holund – were athletes Stadheim has previously mentored.
So, when the Norwegian coach says to watch out for Musgrave in his favoured 15km free event tomorrow, it would be worth setting the alarm for 6am to watch.
“He has everything he needs to become Olympic champion. He’s still young. He’s 28 years old,” he said. “Normally you peak around 30, 32 years old, as in most endurance sports. So, if it does not happen this Olympics, then the next.”
Improvements in Musgrave’s results have been noticeable since the two paired up two years ago, prior to the 2017 World Championships in Lahti. It was there that Musgrave fired another warning to the kings of Nordic skiing, beating all the Norwegians in the field, including three-time Olympic medallist Martin Johnsrud Sundby, when finishing fourth. Stadheim was employed permanently by British Ski and Snowboard later that summer.
Last December Musgrave also claimed his maiden World Cup podium finish with bronze in the 15km freestyle event in Toblach.
Despite relocating to Norway to train, he is still fiercely proud of his roots and it is the Nordic authorities in Britain who are looking to keep up with their man of the moment.
Meanwhile, Musgrave insists he’s not feeling the pressure as he seeks to become Britain’s first Olympic medallist on skis.
“I haven’t thought much about becoming the first British athlete to win an Olympic medal on skis. I only think about becoming an Olympic champion,” he said.
“Obviously that would be an historic thing, but it is not something I need to give me extra motivation.
“I’ve had time to reflect on what happened the other day and obviously I feel more satisfied with my performance. I’m here to win events, but I can definitely take confidence out of how I performed and use it to my benefit.”
Musgrave also welcomed the inclusion of Tongan Pita Taufatofua in the field, even though he only took up skiing last year. Taufatofua made headlines for his shirtless appearance when he carried the flag at the Summer Olympics, when he competed in taekwondo. He reprised the trick in last week’s opening ceremony ahead of his Nordic skiing debut on Sunday – though Musgrave admits he can’t see himself doing the reverse.
“I don’t think I could ever switch from winter sports to summer sports,” he said. “I am not very good at any other sports. I think it would probably have to be cycling because my hand-eye co-ordination is useless.
“I think it’s good for the sport that athletes from less traditional nations get to do cross-country skiing and get to the Olympics.
“I don’t know much about him but if he’s qualified for the Games, then good luck to him.”
l Watch Andrew Musgrave go for his medal tomorrow at 6am on Eurosport 1. Don’t miss a moment of the Olympic Winter Games on Eurosport and Eurosport Player. Go to www.Eurosport.co.uk