Bronze is good as gold for Stig André Berge
Wrestler Berge brings home Norway’s first medal in the sport in 24 years
The Norwegian American
At both the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2012 London Olympics, Norwegian wrestler Stig-André Berge was eliminated from the competition in the first round. In Rio, the 33-year-old wanted to prove himself—not just for himself, but also for his mother who was his biggest supporter and passed away this winter after being diagnosed with cancer.
For the first time in his career, Berge could say that he won an Olympic match when he defeated Jungbaik Lee of South Korea 2-0 in the first round of the Greco-Roman 59-kg competition. The Norwegian’s winning streak continued as he went on to beat Belarusian Soslan Daurov 3-0 in the semifinals.
His luck ran out, however, when he faced Shinobu Ota of Japan in the quarterfinals. The Japanese wrestler defeated Berge 4-0 and therefore advanced to the final to fight for the gold.
It wasn’t over for Berge quite yet, though. Since every wrestler that has lost to the gold or silver medalist is given the opportunity to fight for the bronze, Berge entered the repechage round.
The Norwegian first defeated Amlat Kebispayev of Kazakhstan 2-0. To win a bronze medal, Berge would now have to defeat Rovshan Bayramov of Azerbaijan, who won the world championships in 2011.
At the half, the match was still scoreless, but Bayramov then took the first point.
“I wasn’t too worried about that as long as I kept my body going and as long as we made it to the fourth or fifth minute. That’s when they begin to get tired,” said Berge about trailing by one point.
Sure enough, Berge fought back to tie it up. The match ended 1-1, but since Berge had earned the final point, he was awarded the victory and took the bronze medal.
“I wrestled for my family, for my mother, today. It is not just my medal. It is a medal for many, and it is like gold for me,” said Berge, who was thrilled after his win despite a black eye and injured finger.
The moment Berge won, his coaches stormed the mat and celebrated his win with him, which is Norway’s first medal in wrestling since 1992.
“It is so wonderful. We have worked together for four years. It has been our big goal. It is fantastic,” said coach Jimmy Lindberg.
“He is at his best. The team has done everything perfectly. The plan for the year has been good and they have made good choices throughout the season. All credit to the coaching staff and teammates. Those who did not come to the Olympics have trained with him every day,” added NRK wrestling expert Anders Hestedalen on Berge’s success.
In the end, the gold went to Ismael Borrero Molina of Cuba, the silver to Shinobu Ota of Japan. Elmurat Tadmuradov of Uzbekistan took the other bronze medal; there are two bronze medals awarded due to the structure of the Olympic tournament.
Now the question is whether or not Berge will continue to compete.
“As long as I feel that I have not given enough on the mat, I can continue, but there is plenty that has to happen. Sponsors would have to continue, and my family must want me to keep going. I am 33 now, and it might be time that I become a little less selfish.”
If he does keep competing, however, he has his sights on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. “I’ll go four years or nothing,” he said.
This article originally appeared in the Sept. 9, 2016, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.