Four medals for Norway

Photo: handball.no. The Norwegian women’s handball team won the gold medal match.

Norway finishes 2012 Olympic Games in London with two gold, one silver and one bronze

By Christy Olsen Field

At the end of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, Norway looked at the two-week competition with golden moments mixed with some surprising disappointments. Long a dominating country in the Winter Olympics, Norway finished in 35th place with four medals: two gold, one silver and one bronze.

Road bicycle racer Alexander Kristoff (25) won Norway’s first medal of the Games, taking bronze in the men’s road race on July 28. Norwegian teammates Lars Petter Nordhaug ended in 24th place, and Vegard Stake Laeengen in 76th. Kristoff is often overshadowed by veterans Thor Hushovd and Edvald Boasson Hagen, but it was Kristoff’s time to shine. Hushovd had to withdraw from this year’s Olympics because of illness, and Boasson was stuck in a crowd of cyclists along with race favorite Mark Cavendish.

Kristoff himself said he was “very, very proud” to win Norway’s first medal at the Olympics in London, but also admitted that he “hadn’t expected” to win.

Fencer Bartosz PIasecki (25) secured a silver medal in the men’s individual épée. He was born in Poland, but moved to Norway with his family when he was two years old. He is coached by his father, and works as a math teacher at the elite sports program for Wang Videregående skole in Oslo. Ranked 47th in the world before the Games, Piasecki’s silver medal at the Olympics is Norway’s best achievement in this discipline in history. The next best was an 11th place at the 1984 games by Nils Koppang.

Eirik Verås Larsen won Norway’s first gold of the games on Aug. 8. Hailing from Flekkefjord, Verås Larsen (age 36) capped off his Olympic career by winning the 1000m men’s kayak single.

“I knew this was going to be extremely tough and thought maybe I’d get the silver or bronze,” Larsen told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) when it was all over. “But when it’s gold, that’s just fantastic.” Larsen adds this year’s gold medal to his Olympic collection – he took home gold and bronze from the Games in Athens 2004, and silver in Beijing in 2008.

His wife Mira Verås Larsen, a paddler herself, carried Norway’s flag at the opening ceremonies.

Norway had some surprising losses. Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå, the European Champion and 2004 gold medalist of the Athens Olympics in cross-country mountain bike race, fell on the first hill of the bike race on Aug. 11. In the second round, she suffered a punctured tire and chose to drop out of the race.

“Too bad it had to happen at the Olympics,” she said after the race.

Andreas Thorkildsen had a bad day in track and field, taking sixth place in the javelin finals – his worst finish in nine years. Thorkildsen was the the gold medalist in the 2004 and 2008 Summer Olympics, and he was expecting to make this year’s Olympic golden too.

The Norwegian medal hopeful said he didn’t prioritize in the right way.

“Of course it is easy to see in hindsight, but this is something I have to learn from,” said Thorkildsen to Aftenposten.

Norwegians who finished the games without a medal didn’t necessarily walk away empty-handed: track runner Henrik Ingebrigtsen (21) finished fifth in the 1500m final on Aug. 7, setting a new Norwegian record. Sprinter Ezinne Okparaebo failed to qualify for the 100m dash final on Aug. 4, but set a new Norwegian record in the semifinal.

It was the Norwegian women’s handball team that ended the 2012 London Olympics on a high note for Norwegian fans. The team retained their Olympic title by defeating Montenegro 26 – 23 in a thrilling final on the last day of competition Aug. 11.

Their Royal Highnesses Crown Prince Haakon, Crown Princess Mette-Marit and their children were in the audience for the final game. After the match, HRH Crown Prince Haakon tweeted, “Kpp: Kult kult kult. Gull til Norge. Stor stemning på stadion. Gratulerer jenter 🙂 #OLnor” (Cool, cool, cool. Gold for Norway. Great atmosphere in the stadium. Congratulations, girls.

Linn Jorum Sulland was the star of the match, scoring 10 goals, while Heidi Loke nailed some key goals as well. Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported how Sulland defied pain from an apparent ankle injury that forced her to limp off the floor after scoring seven goals earlier in the match. She rested, had the ankle iced and returned to the match to score three more goals.

This article originally appeared in the Aug. 17, 2012 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.

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