June 26th, 2009
Whew! After a whirlwind of travel and reorganizing, I’m now at the Lake Placid training center with the rest of the US national team for a three-week training camp. I’m finally not thinking about travel, but rather about training.
Anyway, on to what I’ve planned to begin discussing (posts should be coming more frequent now!)—What makes the Norwegians so good at skiing/biathlon? I’m no training expert or coach, but I’d like to point out some the things I’ve noticed over this past year while in Norway. To start it out, I’d like to look at some of the major differences in the race community between the US and Norway in this post—“How the ski community is built up.”
Holmenkollen under construction June 2009. 1,9 billion Kroner upgrade! (~$700 million)
At the beginning of my time in Norway it was quite apparent that sports and school had a different relationship than I was used to. Basically, the two are entirely separate. Before I traveled to Norway, I was part of what I consider a typical college and high school ski program—everything based on school affiliations. In Norway, clubs and to some extent teams rule the scene.
Similar to the US, ski clubs are primarily responsible for the organization of races, including championships. As one might expect, the shear number of races during the season is much higher than home in the US. One can find a race every weekend, if desired, in each region of Norway during the season. During the season in Norway I raced in 39 competitions—twelve more than the year before.
As I alluded to, another big difference from the US has to do with a person’s/athlete’s affiliation, which is based more on the club where he/she grew up as opposed to the school. Even as skiers move between different teams, they are always listed on the result list as part of their club. For example, Lars Berger is listed on the result list as from the club Dombås IL, as opposed to a national team member (That is, if he’s racing a non-international race in Norway).
Teams in Norway function as a training group, just like in the US. Clubs have training programs also, but teams generally are made up of more dedicated athletes. As many of you already know, I chose to join a team called Team Statkraft Lillehammer this past year. This team provided me with coaching, training camps, and race help throughout the season. Each week there were roughly four training sessions as a team. The athlete according to his or her own training plan and schedule would then plan the rest of the week—with guidance from the coach of course (more on this in a subsequent post).
Team Statkraft Lillehammer
Probably the most obvious factor contributing to Norway’s skiing success is simply popularity (duh!). Besides seeing it televised at primetime during the season (and sometimes in the off season), one will often find the trails buzzing with people as long as snow is available. And if there’s no snow, lots of skiers are out rollerskiing, even in April and May! At championship events such as the hovedlandsrennet, the national championships for 15 and 16 year olds, there is just under 300 registered participants for each category—a bit higher than JO’s. (The numbers for the same championships in biathlon were a bit lower, but still well over one hundred.) At the senior biathlon championships (NM skiskying), the number of participants was over 80. In the US we are lucky to have 30! In other words, skiing is Norway’s favorite pastime—you can even buy bread with little skiers on it. Norwegians, after all, are said to be born with skis on their feet!