Norway’s best hurdler returns home

Amalie Iuel prepares to leave LA to pursue a career as a professional athlete in Norway

Photo: Lars Os / NRK
Amalie Iuel graduates from USC this spring and plans to return to Norway to continue her athletic career far from Venice Beach (above).

Molly Jones
The Norwegian American

After four years as a student-athlete at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, Amalie Iuel is returning to Norway to pursue a professional career in track and field. She will be coached by Leif Olav Alnes and training together with fellow Norwegian track and field athlete Karsten Warholm.

“It’s going to be strange, but I’m looking forward to it,” said Iuel in an interview with Hanne Skjellum Mueller of NRK.

The 23-year-old hurdler will be returning to Norway after living abroad for 11 years. She first left Norway with her family due to her father’s work with the Norwegian telecommunications company Telenor.

In fact, it was at the International School of Bangkok in Thailand that she was first really introduced to the 400-meter hurdles at the age of 17. While she wasn’t too keen on the idea at first, once Iuel tried it and realized she had a knack for it, she decided to pursue the sport.

Her goal became to jump hurdles on an American college team, and she had her sights set on USC. While she had talked with the USC coaching staff about joining the team as a hurdler ahead of time, a staffing change meant that Iuel had to go through tryouts to earn her spot.

“I was eventually selected as a high jumper on the team. That was not exactly what I had wanted,” she admitted.

Eventually, after about six months of persuading the coaches to let her try the hurdles, she got her chance to impress them.

“We didn’t know anything about Amalie’s background and didn’t know that she could run so well. Fortunately we found that out,” said Head Coach Caryl Smith Gilbert.

It was fortunate for Iuel too; in order to keep her scholarship and stay at USC, she had to be performing at the top of her game—and for her, that means hurdles.

Even though the 400-meter hurdles became her specialty, she had to continue with other events as well to help USC earn as many points as possible. Now that she is wrapping up her college career, however, she is able to drop the other events.

“I have stopped completely with the heptathlon and high jump, so there’s more focus on the hurdles and 400 meters. Then the technique improves and I get better training. In addition, I’m injury free,” she says about her recent improvement.

Already this spring she has made impressive strides, setting the Norwegian record in the 400-meter hurdles (55.38), as well as the 400-meter sprint (51.81).

Throughout her time in California, Iuel has struggled with multiple injuries in her legs and back. And it’s no surprise considering all of the two-a-day trainings and meets almost every weekend spread out over a long season—all while working on her bachelor’s degree in Human Biology.

She hopes that the more relaxed pace of training in Norway will help keep her injury free.

“There are fewer competitions, and I think that’s good for the body, and I’ve talked to Leif Olav about it already. Although I’m very fond of competing, I think in a way that what I’ve been doing now the last four years is not necessary if you want to succeed,” she said.

Personally, she feels it is better to avoid setting concrete goals as her nerves often affect her performance; she is generally more successful when she is relaxed.

“I think I have quite a lot of potential that I have not shown yet because I started so late. I know I have more inside and how I can use it to improve, including my rhythm,” she says.

Looking ahead, Iuel hopes to perform well enough in Norway to get sponsorships—all while keeping a focus on fun.

This article originally appeared in the May 19, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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