Ingvild Flugstad Østberg (NOR) won the 5km skate race in Lenzerheide (SUI) on January 3, the third stage of the 2016 Tour de Ski. Photo: Nordic Focus

Ingvild Flugstad Østberg (NOR) won the 5km skate race in Lenzerheide (SUI) on January 3, the third stage of the 2016 Tour de Ski. Photo: Nordic Focus

Ingvild F. Østberg (NOR) is aiming to step it up again for the 2016-17 season.

the 25-year-old Norwegian just finished an amazing season, her best to date. On May 1, Østberg formally started preparing for the 2016-17 season, aiming to step it up yet another notch. But she admits she has needed some time just to let the season sink in.

“There was a while where I literally couldn’t believe it was real, and it lasted a little into the spring, but I’m starting to realize it now,” Østberg said to NTB last week.

At the 2014 Olympics in Sochi (RUS), she earned the silver medal in the sprint and helped Norway to gold in the team sprint. At the 2015 World Championships in Falun (SWE) she helped Norway to gold in the team sprint again. This season, she has dominated the Wold Cup podium, week after week.

“It was unreal. Prior to the 2015-16 season, I hadn’t been on the World Cup podium for a distance race at all, and this season, I was pretty much on the podium every weekend throughout the entire winter. In tours and regular World Cups,” she says of the season that became her major World Cup breakthrough.

Østberg, who comes from the small town of Gjøvik, says that even for family and friends and those who know her really well, it hasn’t been easy to put words to what they’ve seen this season.

“I’m sure some expect that I will take the same giant leaps next winter, but I’m getting close to the top now, and the higher you get, the more difficult it becomes to take the next steps,” Østberg explains.

“It’s actually not realistic to make similar gains next season, but my goal for the upcoming season is to keep improving,” she says.