Speedskating toward victory in Hamar

Ragne Wiklund and Sander Eitrem stand out as superstars

Photo: Christoffer Andersen / NTB
Ragne Wiklund in the final race of the all-around, 5,000m at the European Speed Skating Championships at Hamar. Wiklund, 22, skated a great race, but her silver medal made her the first Norwegian woman to medal in all-around.

Michael Kleiner
Business & Sports Editor
The Norwegian American

The women

Ragne Wiklund is quickly skating toward immortality as the best Norwegian women’s speed skater of all time.  She’s only 22. In 2021, she shocked the world by becoming world champion in the 1,500m and becoming the first Norwegian woman world champion since 1938.

At the European Championships in Hamar, Jan. 6–8, Wiklund raced a fantastic 5,000m, the climactic event of the all-around. It was not quite enough to wrest all-around gold from the Netherlands’ 27-year old Antoinette Rijpma-de Jong.

However, it was enough for a historic silver, the first Norwegian woman to medal in the all-around.

The all-around includes four different distances to determine the best skater. For the women, it’s the 500m, 3,000m, 1,500m and 5,000m in that order. For the men, it’s 500m, 5,000m, 1,500m and 10,000m.

In the 5,000m, Wiklund was in the third pair against Dutch Robin Groot. Wiklund started out fast. On the first seven laps, her splits were between 32.0-32.9, and though she slowed slightly with splits between 33.0-34.2 on the final six laps, the splits were the best of any skater.

She was so far ahead that Groot disappeared from the screen. Wiklund’s time was 6:57.19, not a personal best, but 14.33 ahead of Groot, 5.08 in front of Marijke Groenewoud (Netherlands), and 8.04 better than Rijpma-de Jong.

However, Wiklund finished fourth in the 500m (39.59) behind Rijpma-de Jong (38.55), Groenewoud (39.03) and Groot (39.72), and third in the 1,500m (1:56.29), trailing Rijpma-de Jong (1:55.39) and Groenewoud (1:55.66). Wiklund beat Rijpma-de Jong in their 3,000m pairing (3:59.92-4:01.40), but Rijpma-de Jong’s time was still good for second.

“It is very fun and great to do it here on home ground,” Wiklund told Viaplay. “The 5,000 meters was tough, of course, but good. It went exactly as I had planned. The top speed and profit may now come toward the end of the season.”

The men 

Photo: Christoffer Andersen / NTB
Sander Eitrem, 20, racing in the final men’s all-around race, 10,000m, surprised everyone by winning silver in the all-around at the European Championships at Hamar, Jan. 6-8

There was a surprise in the men’s all-around as 20-year-old Norwegian Sander Eitrem captured silver. He was third in the 500m (36.94) behind veteran Patrick Roest (Netherlands) (36.45) and 21-year-old teammate Peder Kongshaug (36.55). Eitrem won the 5,000m (6:12.15) by almost 5 seconds in his pairing, Eitrem won the 1,500m (1:44.44) over Roest (1:45.83) and Kongshaug (1:46.01).

Eitrem entered the 10,000m, with a 1.78-second lead on Roest.

The two were paired against each other. After three laps, Roest had made up the difference. At the 7,000-meter point, he started to put more distance between them. Eitrem was third (personal best 13:04.24) behind Roest (12:58.09) and Italy’s Davide Ghiotto (13:00.09).

“It was delicious,” Eitrem told Viaplay. “I wasn’t strong enough to take him but gave him a good fight. This was above all expectations in all the races.”

In the World Cup standings, Wiklund is first in women’s long distances and fourth in 1,500m, while Eitrem is fourth in men’s long distance and eighth in 1,500m. Norway’s men’s Team Pursuit is second and Team Sprint fifth.

This article originally appeared in the February 2023 issue of The Norwegian American.

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Michael Kleiner

Michael Kleiner, business and sports editor, has more than three decades of experience as an award-winning journalist and public relations professional. He has operated his own PR and web design business for small businesses, authors and community organizations in Philadelphia since 1999. Not of Norwegian descent, he lived in Norway for a year with his family at age 11 and has returned as an adult. He is the author of a memoir, Beyond the Cold: An American’s Warm Portrait of Norway, and a member of NorCham Philadelphia. Visit Kleinerprweb.com; beyondthecold.com.