Norway in the Olympics: First Norwegian Olympic artistic gymnast in 16 years

Photo: Christian Thomassen Stian Skjerahaug hopes to place in the top 24 in the Rio summer games.

Photo: Christian Thomassen
Stian Skjerahaug hopes to place in the top 24 in the Rio summer games.

Molly Jones
Norwegian American Weekly

For the first time since the Sydney 2000 Olympics, Norway will be sending an artistic gymnast to the Olympic Games in Rio de Janiero this summer: Stian Skjerahaug.

The 24-year-old Norwegian gymnast competed in the Olympic Test Event in Rio on April 16 along with a few of his teammates. It was Norway’s last chance to qualify for a coveted spot in the 2016 Olympics.

“I am in good shape and very motivated,” said Skjerahaug with confidence before the event.

Skjerahaug finished the competition in 30th place with a score of 84,624 points, which qualified him for the men’s apparatus and all-around events at Rio 2016.

“I landed my jump on the last apparatus without taking any steps, and then I really knew that I had done it. I turned to my teammates and yelled ‘JAAA!’” said the gymnast to NRK. He was the only one of the Norwegian team to qualify and will be the first Olympic artistic gymnast from Norway since Flemming Solberg competed in Sydney 16 years ago.

Ever since he started competing in gymnastics at the age of seven or eight, Skjerahaug has continuously performed at the top of the Norwegian competition in his age group.

About 10 years ago, Norges Gymnastikk- og Turnforbund (NGTF), the foundation for gymnastics in Norway, held a meeting to commit to a greater focus on Norway’s male artistic gymnasts with a goal of earning a spot in the 2016 Olympics. To accomplish this, NGTF hired a full-time coach and established a center in Oslo where the country’s best gymnasts could train daily. Present at this meeting was a 14-year-old Skjerahaug, representing Norway’s potential in artistic gymnastics.

He went on to win the Norwegian Championships multiple times, including three consecutive victories in the junior competition from 2008 to 2010 and a win in the senior competition the following year. The gymnast has previously represented Norway in both European and World Championships and is proud to be moving on to the Olympics this year.

Photo: Håkon Jørgensen

Photo: Håkon Jørgensen

“I’m so happy and satisfied because I have achieved my dream! It’s absolutely fantastic,” he said to NRK.

On April 21, Skjerahaug returned home for his first training in Stavanger since his qualification. His goal is to place among the top 24 at the Olympics. In order to improve, the gymnast is planning to increase his training from 30 to 35 hours per week and escalate his difficulty level on some of the apparatus.

“I need to improve in everything, but especially in the horizontal bar and parallel bars, I feel that I have the potential to get higher scores. What I am doing now is a little too easy compared to what I can achieve,” he said.

It certainly won’t be an easy feat for the Norwegian though, especially with the other competitions between now and the summer.

“There’s a lot of training ahead. In three weeks we have the Nordic Championships, and in five weeks we have the team World Championships. After that I’ll have five days’ vacation, and then I’ll begin with preparation for the Olympics, with trainings at home and meets abroad,” he said.

NGTF President Kristin Gilbert is thrilled with Skjerahaug’s success so far: “Gymnastics is a very, very big sport. It is one of the three sports that the International Olympic Committee values the most in the Olympics, with participation from over 100 countries. There is a lot of respect for Stian’s performance.” She believes that he will serve as an inspiration for Norwegian gymnastics overall.

Be sure to tune into the gymnastics events at Rio 2016 to see if Skjerahaug meets his goal in the top 24!

This article originally appeared in the May 6, 2016, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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