The Norwegian Olympic gold medalist tragically lost her life at the age of just 38.
Cross-country skiers are ten a penny in Norway, so to stand out and succeed at the highest level takes real talent and determination.
Vibeke Skofterud overcame personal struggles to win gold in the 2010 Winter Olympics 4x5km relay and added several other honours before retiring from competition in 2015.
In July 2018, at the age of only 38, Vibeke Skofterud died in a tragic jet-skiing accident. We take a look back at the life of one of Norway's great cross-country skiers.
Her early life
Vibeke Skofterud was born in April 1980 in the town of Askim. She started to ski at the age of one, almost before she could walk, and at the age of two took part in her first competition.
Skiing obviously became a passion over her early years and at the age of 15 Vibeke moved to Hovden so that she could combine her studies and her training more easily.
Building a skiing career
Vibeke participated in the FIS Junior World Ski Championships in 1999, coming an unremarkable, but respectable, 37th out of a field of 74 in the Ladies 15km event.
The following January, Vibeke came 8th in a field of 66 in the Ladies 1.5km individual sprint at the same competition and then in March made her debut in the World Cup.
In February 2001 Vibeke made the step up from the FIS Junior to the FIS World Ski Championships. In her first year she managed a respectable 16th out of 58 in the 1km sprints and 36th out of 48 in the 10km Pursuit.
In December 2001, at the age of 21, Vibeke finally achieved her first taste of the success that would come to mark her career, winning a bronze medal in the 5km race and silver in the 1.5km sprint at the world cup in Cogne, Italy.
Onwards to Olympic success
In 2002, Vibeke was a member of the Norwegian Olympic Team for the first time. She attained her best individual Olympic result coming 8th in the 30km mass start.
The following year, Vibeke gained her first medal in the World Championships – a silver medal in the 4x5km relay along with Anita Moen, Marit Bjørgen and Hilde Pedersen, posting the fastest time in the team of 12:44.8.
Two years later, at the 2005 World Championships in Oberstdorf, Germany, the Norwegian relay team, with Kristin Steira replacing Anita Moen, took the gold medal in the 4x5km relay.
Another two years later, in Sapporo, Japan, Vibele completed her set of medals when the relay team of Skofterud, Bjoergen, Steira and Astrid Jacobsen took bronze.
In 2009/10 Vibeke was dropped from the national team but fought hard to regain her place. At the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada, the relay team of Skofterud, Bjørgen, Steira and newcomer Therese Johaug took the ultimate prize of the gold medal in the 4x5km event.
In 2011, the team took gold in the World Championships in Oslo and Vibeke also attained two top-ten finishes in the individual races – 9th in the 10km and 6th in the 30km mass start.
A few more first places in World Cup competitions would come before Vibeke finally hung up her competition skis in 2015.
Vibeke enjoyed playing many sports including scuba diving, wakeboarding and kickboxing. She also joined the Lion Conservation Volunteer Project and was passionate about raising funds for the cause.
Vibeke struggled with eating disorders at various points during her career, which led to her losing her place in the national team. She always managed to fight her way back and she always supported mental health causes.
An untimely end
On July 28th 2018, Vibeke and her long-term partner Marit Stenshorne were vacationing on the island of Tromøya in southern Norway.
They attended a music festival in nearby Arendal and Marit reported Vibeke missing at around 1am in the early hours of Sunday morning after she failed to return to Tromøya.
A rescue boat found the site of a jetskiing accident at around 11:30am on the Sunday and Vibeke was pronounced dead on the scene.
Marit posted the following message on social media about the death of her girlfriend:
“Vibeke my great love, my girlfriend, my lover, my hero, my mentor and best friend. We said: the two of us forever. We were going to become old and wrinkly together. Life will be so sad and difficult without you. You gave me so much positivity, gratefulness, laughter, joy, knowledge and love. Love you.”
A tragic end to a life lived in the best spirit of us all. Vibeke Skofterud lived her life to the full, through bad times and good, and was taken away long before her time.