Norway in the Olympics: Meet Norway’s track & field athletes

Photo: Chell Hill / Wikimedia Commons Karoline Bjerkeli Grøvdal competing at the 2015 Bislett Games.

Photo: Chell Hill / Wikimedia Commons
Karoline Bjerkeli Grøvdal competing at the 2015 Bislett Games.

Molly Jones
The Norwegian American

A mere month ago, only five Norwegian track and field athletes had been granted a ticket to the Rio 2016 Summer Games now underway. Long-distance runner Karoline Bjerkeli Grøvdal and race walker Håvard Haukenes were selected in Olympiatoppen’s first set of picks on May 30, while long-distance runner Sondre Nordstad Moen, discus thrower Sven Martin Skagestad, and race walker Erik Tysse joined the squad on June 19.

Many of Norway’s top athletes had yet to meet the international requirements determined by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF)—let alone the stricter Norwegian requirements set by Olympiatoppen. Their final opportunity was the European Athletics Championship, held July 6 to 10 in Amsterdam.

The most notable Norwegian performance in Amsterdam was that of 23-year-old Filip Ingebrigtsen, who took first in the 1500-meter race—Norway’s only gold of the competition—while his brother, 25-year-old Henrik Ingebrigtsen, took the bronze. Despite his title as European champion, though, Filip still hadn’t met the international requirement—his season best of 3:36.21 trailed the requirement by just one hundredth of a second.

Since Filip had achieved the gold, however, Olympiatoppen’s Manager of Elite Sports, Tore Øvrebø, confirmed that the younger Ingebrigtsen would be selected for Rio if the IAAF were to invite him. Sure enough, when the IAAF started sending invitations to fill up the start lists, Filip received his ticket to the Olympics.

“It’s fantastic that he’s coming. We’ve hoped that this would work out. It’s good for Norway and it’s good for athletics in general that the European champion of 1,500 meters is on the field,” said Øvrebø.

Photo: Chell Hill / Wikimedia Commons Karsten Warholm competing at the 2015 Bislett Games.

Photo: Chell Hill / Wikimedia Commons
Karsten Warholm competing at the 2015 Bislett Games.

In the 400-meter hurdles, both Karsten Warholm and Amalie Hammild Iuel set Norwegian records and qualified for Rio. Warholm broke the record, previously set by himself, by 61 hundredths with a time of 48.84. “I didn’t need to see the clock to know that it was a good run,” he said to NRK.

Iuel’s new record is 55.79. “I tried to hold back the tears when I saw the time on the board, but obviously it was fun to see the number: a Norwegian record, Olympic ticket, European Championship finale, all at once,” she told Dagbladet.

Not everyone experienced the same level of success, however. While Henrik Ingebrigtsen, sprinter Ezinne Okparaebo, hurdler Isabelle Pedersen, and middle-distance runner Hedda Hynne are considered some of Norway’s best and had met the international demands for Olympic qualification, they all still fell short of their country’s requirements.

Many (including the athletes themselves) feel that Norway’s requirements are much too tough and can cause the athletes to peak during qualification, rather than during the Olympics.

Øvrebø disagrees, believing the strict requirements ensure only high-quality representation. “We must create a culture of achievement, not qualification,” he says.

In the end, however, all four Norwegians were chosen to represent Norway in Olympiatoppen’s third and final selection on July 15.

 Photo: Chell Hill / Wikimedia Commons Henrik Ingebrigtsen competing at the 2012 Bislett Games.

Photo: Chell Hill / Wikimedia Commons
Henrik Ingebrigtsen competing at the 2012 Bislett Games.

“They have both been performing at a very high level previously and had good times last year. They have proven that they are improving this year, and they still have a month to prepare,” said Øvrebø of his decision to pick Okparaebo and Pedersen, who were both hopeful but hadn’t expected to be selected.

“I’m very proud and super happy, and a little relieved, because I had hoped for this. It was great to get it confirmed,” said Hynne, whose time of 2:00.94 is .94 behind the Norwegian requirement but well within the international requirement of 2:01.50.

The other final selections for the athletics squad include Tonje Angelsen, Ingeborg Løvnes, and Jaysuma Saidy Ndure.

In total, 15 athletes will be representing Norway in the track and field events at Rio 2016, which begin on August 12. While they have certainly fought hard for their spots at the Olympics, the team isn’t too likely to bring home any medals for Norway.

“There are not many medal candidates in the squad. On the best day with the right racing plan, Filip Ingebrigtsen could maybe do it. He’s probably the only medal candidate I see right now,” says NRK athletics expert Vebjørn Rodal.

With some help from the handball and rowing squads, Øvrebø hopes that Norway’s 62 athletes will improve upon London 2012 and bring home more than four medals this year.

This article originally appeared in the Aug. 12, 2016, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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