Norway in the Olympics: Store to be first Olympic female wrestler

Photo: Ove Gundersen / Aftenposten Signe Marie Store (left) will be the first female wrestler to represent Norway in the Olympics this summer in Rio.

Photo: Ove Gundersen / Aftenposten
Signe Marie Store (left) will be the first female wrestler to represent Norway in the Olympics this summer in Rio.

Molly Jones
The Norwegian American

On May 7, Signe Marie Fidje Store made history when she became Norway’s first female wrestler to qualify for the Olympics, 12 years after women’s wrestling was added to the Games.

The World Wrestling Olympic Qualification Tournament in Istanbul was her final opportunity to qualify for the Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. The 20-year-old from Tana in Finnmark had to make it to the finals in order to earn her spot.

Competing in the 69-kg class, Store defeated Viktoria Bobeva of Bulgaria 4-3 in the round of 16 and then continued on to beat Hungarian Vanessa Wilson 2-1 in the quarterfinals. Then, with a 4-3 win over Danutė Domikaitytė of Lithuania in the semifinals, the Norwegian earned her ticket to Rio. Due to a knee injury from the tournament, Store decided to withdraw from the final against Ukrainian Alina Stadnyk.

“There are so many sacrifices. One gives so insanely much for this sport. It is so great to get back what you deserve. I can’t describe it,” she said to NRK through tears of joy.

For such a young athlete from a small northern Norwegian town, Store’s accomplishment is especially significant—for herself and her country alike.

“It’s almost unbelievable! She is a first-year senior and crushed her first attempt in this way. It’s incredible. We’ve had faith the whole way, but that she succeeded now is amazing. It does not get better than this,” says Frode Gundersen, who trained the wrestler from the age of 10 to 16.

“It was immediately a historic achievement,” says former wrestler and trainer Ove Gundersen to Aftenposten. “She comes from Tana in Finnmark. The recruitment up there in the local community shows that it is possible to become one of the best in the world even if you come from a small place. For female wrestling in general in Norway, it will set women’s wrestling on the map.”

Store isn’t the only thriving young female wrestler in Norway, however. In fact, most had their eyes on 19-year-old Grace Bullen, who was expected to qualify in the 58-kg class, especially after she took the silver in the European Championships in Latvia this year. But after a quick and easy victory over Korean Choi Ji-ae in the round of 16, she was defeated by China’s Lan Zhang 4-12 in the quarterfinals and lost her chance at competing in the 2016 Games.

Many feel she should have qualified but that she was unlucky to meet Zhang—considered the toughest competitor—so early in the competition.

“It was a bit surprising that she knocked out in the quarterfinals as she was so dominating in the first match, but she was a bit unlucky with the draw,” said wrestling president Tom Holmen to Fredriksstad Blad.

Bullen was certainly disappointed with the results, but she is still at the beginning of her career and is expected to qualify for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. For now though, Store will have to represent Norway as the only female wrestler in Rio.

When Olympiatoppen released the first list of Norwegian athletes selected to compete in the Olympics, however, many were surprised not to find Store’s name.

In response, Olympiatoppen’s Tore Øvrebø commented on the issue: “Signe has met the requirement, and she is very applicable to be selected. But she has had a minor knee injury, and we want to first ensure the cooperation between us, the wrestling federation, and Signe. She was in close contact with us earlier, but she has changed both her weight class and coach. We want a closer relationship with her and the wrestling federation in the future,” he said to NTB.

“I think it is strange, but I have chosen not to focus on it. I have trained and done my job. So I have let Olympiatoppen do theirs,” said Store to iFinnmark.

She was named on Olympiatoppen’s next list of selections, however, which was released on June 19.

“It feels very good. I was sure I would get a place, but it’s nice to have it on paper. I’m looking forward to it so much. This is what all wrestlers dream about. It’s a dream come true,” she said.

She doesn’t know what to expect in Rio, but she is looking forward to getting on the mat and showing what she can do as Norway’s first female Olympic wrestler.

This article originally appeared in the July 29, 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.