Norway, Schrøder meet Paralympic goals

Female hockey player makes history just by playing; team Norway wins eight medals

Lena Schrøder

Photo: Joel Marklund / OIS / IOC / VG
Lena Schrøder, in Norway’s locker room, suits up with her male teammates. She became the first woman position player to play in a men’s Paralympic Games sledge hockey game.

Michael Kleiner
The Norwegian American

Another Norwegian woman made Winter Olympic history—this time in the Paralympics. Lena Schrøder, who was born with spina bifida, didn’t win a medal and she hardly played. Her mere presence as the only woman among the eight hockey-playing countries’ teams made history. Goalie Britt Mjaasund Øyen was on Norway’s 1994 silver-medal Paralympic hockey team, but rules then allowed for more gender mixture. A women’s player traveled to Sweden in 2006 but did not play, so rules were changed to allow one spot for a woman on a team. Norway was the only one who did include a woman, and the only country that ever has. Schrøder was the first woman position player to see action.

“If I was only included because of that quota I would not feel like an equal part of the team,” Schrøder, a 24-year-old fifth-year medical student at the University of Oslo, told Dagbladet. “Although I’ve known that I’m not directly competing for a place with the guys, I’ve felt I am. It has been the same criteria for me as everyone else and I think that is very good. Then I feel I’m not just on vacation. I see myself as a player, and I think the boys do, too. Being the only woman ice hockey player at Paralympics is very fun. I have to give myself a little pat on my shoulders.”

She was not a token selection to the team.

Lena Schrøder

Foto: Siv Johanne Seglem / Dagbladet
Lena Schrøder Winter Olympic history.

“Lena was taken based on the same criteria as everyone else,” coach Espen Hegde told Dagbladet. “She is considered a tactically strong player and a positive mood spreader in the locker room. She deserved to join the team regardless of gender. She was actually among the first 16 we nominated, while two men were later left off the team.”

Norway, the second most decorated paralympic ice-hockey team, hoped to medal. It lost the opener to Italy 3-2 in a shootout. Morton Værnes, Schrøder’s partner, and Audun Bakke scored, while Knut Andre Nordstoga had two assists. The second game was an 8-0 loss to Canada, but Norway finally got in the win column with a 3-1 win over Sweden on two goals and an assist by Magnus Bogle.

It also marked Schrøder’s first appearance, playing 5:13. “It’s great to write history,” she said. “I am very happy with her game and she defended very well,” said Hegde.

The Norwegians then beat Japan 6-1 behind a hat trick and an assist by 48-year-old defenseman Rolf Einar Pedersen, two goals by Bakke, and a goal and three assists from Bogle. Bakke’s three goals, Pedersen’s two goals and an assist, and two assists by Værnes led to a 5-2 win over the Czech Republic. Schrøder didn’t see any more ice time.

While hockey didn’t medal, Norway eclipsed their goal of seven medals with eight, but trailed the United States, who led with 36. It was Norway’s most since 2002 and twice as many as 2014. Jesper Pedersen, 18, took gold in the men’s giant slalom, after placing second after the first run and then finishing first in the second run. American Tyler Walker won silver. After placing first in the first run of men’s super combined slalom sitting, Pedersen settled for bronze.

Other Norwegian medals include Silver: Vilde Nilsen, 17, women’s 1.5km sprint classic cross-country standing; 4×2.5km cross-country open relay of Nils-Erik Ulset, Håkon Olsrud, Erik Bye and Arvid Nelson; phenomenal rally by the men’s curling team; Bronze: Ulset in 15km biathlon standing and Olsrud in 20km free standing cross-country. The wheelchair curlers lost their first three matches by a combined 25-4, split the next two, then won six straight to reach the gold medal game, where they lost to China, 6-5, which had beaten the Norwegians 10-1 earlier in the tournament.

“I’m starting to laugh because I’m so happy,” said Norwegian Paralympic general Cato Zahl Pedersen to Dagbladet. “Paralympics in Pyeongchang 2018 has been an incredibly successful championship for us. We have reached our goals. First, the main goal of seven medals included one team medal, so we got one bonus today.”

Declan Farmer of the United States hockey team scored with 37 seconds left in regulation to tie Canada, then added the sudden death game-winner to give America a 2-1 victory, and the gold.

The Americans’ Paralympic success was powered by Daniel Cnossen, Oksana Masters, Kendall Gretsch, Andy Soule, Andrew Kurka, Noah Elliott, Mike Schultz, Brenna Huckaby, and Amy Purdy.

Cnossen took home five medals: gold in men’s 7.5km biathlon sitting; silvers in 12.5km biathlon sitting, 15km biathlon sitting, 15km sitting cross-country, and 7.5km sitting cross-country.

Four medals went to Masters: gold in women’s 1.5km sprint classical sitting cross-country, silvers in 6km and 12.5km biathlon sitting, and bronze in 12km sitting cross-country.

Gretsch won gold in 6km biathlon sitting and 12km sitting cross-country. Soule earned gold in 1.5km sprint sitting cross-country and bronze in 12.5km biathlon sitting, while Jake Adicoff took silver in 10km classic cross-country visually impaired.
In Alpine skiing, Kurka won gold in downhill sitting and silver in Super-G sitting.
Huckaby and Purdy took one-two in women’s snowboard cross SB-LL1, and one-three in banked slalom SB-LL1, while Brittani Coury earned silver in banked slalom SB-LL2.

For the men, two medals each went to Mike Minor (gold in snowboard banked slalom SB-UL, bronze in snowboard cross SB-UL), Schultz (gold in snowboard cross SB-LL1, silver in banked slalom SB-LL1) and Elliott (gold in banked slalom SB-LL1, bronze in snowboard cross SB-LL). Silvers went to Keith Gabel in the snowboarding SB-LL2, and Evan Strong in snowboard banked slalom SB-LL2.

Gretsch won gold in 6km biathlon sitting and 12km sitting cross-country. Soule earned gold in 1.5km sprint sitting cross-country and bronze in 12.5km biathlon sitting, while Jake Adicoff took silver in 10km classic cross-country visually impaired.
In Alpine skiing, Kurka won gold in downhill sitting and silver in Super-G sitting.

Huckaby and Purdy took one-two in women’s snowboard cross SB-LL1, and one-three in banked slalom SB-LL1, while Brittani Coury earned silver in banked slalom SB-LL2.

For the men, two medals each went to Mike Minor (gold in snowboard banked slalom SB-UL, bronze in snowboard cross SB-UL), Schultz (gold in snowboard cross SB-LL1, silver in banked slalom SB-LL1) and Elliott (gold in banked slalom SB-LL1, bronze in snowboard cross SB-LL). Silvers went to Keith Gabel in the snowboarding SB-LL2, and Evan Strong in snowboard banked slalom SB-LL2.

This article originally appeared in the April 6, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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