Norway in the Olympics: Stig André Berge hopes third time is the charm

Photo: Maja Suslin / Aftenposten Stig André Berge has qualified for the 2016 Olympics. This photo is from the 2012 Olympics.

Photo: Maja Suslin / Aftenposten
Stig André Berge has qualified for the 2016 Olympics. This photo is from the 2012 Olympics.

Molly Jones
Norwegian American Weekly

For the third consecutive time, Oslo wrestler Stig André Berge has qualified for the Olympics. But after being eliminated in the first round in both Beijing in 2008 and London in 2012, the 32-year-old believes that this year may be his chance for an Olympic medal when he competes in the Greco-Roman 59-kg class in Rio de Janeiro this August.

Berge earned his ticket to Rio at the Olympics qualification event on April 22 in Mongolia when he defeated Ukrainian Dmytro Tsymbaliuk 3-1 in the semifinal. He had come close to qualifying the week earlier in Serbia as well, but ended in third place—just one spot shy of qualification.

After a tough year for Berge, who lost his mother in February, the wrestler is especially proud of his achievement: “It has been tough and challenging, but as long as you have faith in what you’re doing, everything is possible. You must look yourself in the eye and ask yourself ‘What can I do something about, and what can I not do anything about?’ I have concentrated on what I can do something about. Wrestling is my life,” he said to NTB.

Berge has previously excelled in international competition, earning a silver medal at the European Championships in Bulgaria in 2007 and a bronze in the World Championships in Uzbekistan in 2014. Now his sights are set on an Olympic medal.

“This is what I have worked towards for four years. I took the World Cup bronze in 2014; if I had won it last year, I would have been directly qualified. I’ve worked extremely hard and sweat and bled every single day. Everything I do is geared towards the Olympics and my career. It’s not just me but the whole family. Everything we do is geared towards my career on the wrestling mat. So this is a relief,” says Berge.

As long as he stays focused and takes the competition one match at a time, Berge believes he will be successful.

“It is easy to lose your focus and quickly fail. I’ve done that twice. In Beijing, I was not good enough for a medal, but when I was in London four years ago, I thought too much. I have gotten better at staying focused,” says Berge.

His coach Fritz Aanes agrees that the Norwegian has a good chance for a medal and notes that in the sport of wrestling qualifying is often more difficult than excelling in the actual Olympic competition.

“It is argued that it is more difficult for Europeans to qualify than to win a medal in the Olympics. That’s because other continents are assigned a quota. So when he qualifies for the Olympics, he is a medal contender,” said Fritz Aanes to TV 2.

To further increase Berge’s chances at success, Norges Bryteforbund has created a new system that records the routines of all of the competition so that Berge can review his next opponent’s strengths and weaknesses before the match begins. Berge’s team believes that this system helped him to qualify and will contribute to his success in Rio. While this is not a revolutionary concept, the national wrestling association had not had the funds to prioritize it until now.

Another way the wrestler is hoping to improve his chances this year is by taking some time off before the real training for the Olympics begins.

“Now I’ll take a vacation. Previously I’ve started right in with strenuous training, and it has not worked. Now I’m going to rest first and then I’ll prepare myself in the best possible way,” says Berge to NRK.

By qualifying at an earlier stage than in previous years, he has more time to prepare and train for the Olympics, giving him this opportunity to take a vacation and allow his body to recover.

“He’s not going to the Olympics as a tourist only to lose his first match. He is not among the three biggest favorites, but he can beat everyone if he has a very good day,” said Norway’s head coach Jimmy Lidberg.

Berge agrees: “I always go to the mat to win, so anything can happen at the Olympics.”

This article originally appeared in the May 20, 2016, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.