Meet Norway’s 2020 (2021) Olympics medal contenders
JO CHRISTIAN WELDINGH
The 2020 Summer Olympics are scheduled to be held from July 23 to Aug. 8, 2021, in Tokyo. Originally scheduled to take place from July 24 to Aug. 9, 2020, the event was postponed in March 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The event will not allow international spectators, but Norway has decided to send their best men and women to compete for Olympic medals.
COVID-19 still casts a cloud over these games, as Japan is still experiencing new cases. On June 21, it was announced a maximum of 10,000 Japanese fans will be permitted into venues.
The Norwegian Confederation of Sports (NIF) has a strict policy of only sending athletes who are capable of being among the top 12 in the world in their sport, so making the Norwegian Olympic team is no easy feat. NIF has an outspoken goal of winning eight medals in Tokyo. Some might say it is too ambitious and point to the disappointing Olympic games in London 2012 (four medals) and Rio de Janeiro 2016 (four medals), but Norwegian sports have taken big strides in the last five years. Below is a list of Norway’s best Olympic medal contenders.
Karsten Warholm (400m hurdles) is ranked as the No. 1 athlete in his event and is the reigning European and World Champion. By far, he is the best Norwegian gold medal contender. He has not competed in an official 400m hurdles race so far this season, so it is difficult to say anything about his current form. Warholm is expected to get tough competition from American Rai Benjamin and Abderrahman Samba from Qatar. Last year, he clocked 46.87 in Stockholm, which is .09 shy of American Kevin Young’s world record in the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. Warholm is only 25.
Jakob Ingebrigtsen’s (1,500m) progress is unique for a European runner. The 20-year-old from Sandnes is already one of the best middle-distance runners in the world and has been the second best 1,500m runner for the last two seasons behind Timothy Cheruiyot from Kenya. Cheruiyot failed to qualify for the 2021 Olympics, so Ingebrigtsen might be traveling to Tokyo as the biggest favorite. He set the European record in the 5,000m—not even his main event—of 12:48.5 in Florence, Italy, on June 10.
Jakob’s brother Filip Ingebrigtsen, 28, while also a World Championship medal winner in the 1,500m, has not been able to keep up with younger brother Jakob in the last couple of seasons. He’s a medal contender if he avoids injuries and everything goes his way.
Amalie Iuel (400m hurdles) was eliminated in the first round in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 but has improved since then. Iuel will easily get in the top 10, and if everything goes her way, she has a good chance of reaching her first ever Olympic final. She holds the Norwegian record and shares the same coach as Warholm, Leif Olav Alnes.
Karoline Bjerkeli Grøvdal (5,000m, 10,000m) probably won’t be able to compete with the best African runners but has a good chance at a top 10 spot. She finished seventh in Rio in 2016. At the Bislett Night of Highlights at Bislett Stadium in Oslo on June 4, she unofficially broke legend Grete Waitz’s record in the 3,000m.
Besides Warholm, the Norwegian women’s handball team is the biggest Norwegian gold medal hope. The Norwegian women have made a habit of winning international championships and won last December’s European championship. They are loaded.
Standout players are right back Nora Mørk (635 goals, 131 international games), center-back Stine Bredal Oftedal (547/202) and young up-and-comer 22-year-old Henny Reistad (80/27). The top scorer is Camilla Herrem (724/262, 65 goals in 10 games for Sola in REMI-1000). Vipers Kristiansand won the Norway REMI-1000 league going undefeated, and the Norway Cup, then won the Champions League on May 30, crowned as the world’s best team. Reistad scored 22 goals in the two final four games and was named MVP. Four Vipers are on the national team’s top 22, five more on the extended squad. Besides Reistad and Mørk, is goalkeeper Katrine Lunde and Marta Tomac (72/76). Hungarian power Györ was in the CL final four and has four Norwegians on the team, all of whom are on Norway’s squad, including Oftedal, Player of the Year in 2019; Veronica Kristiansen (474/143), Kari Brattset Dale (181/78) and goalie Silje Solberg. Among five from Danish power Esbjerg are Marit Malm Fraford (411/212), Sanna Solberg-Isaksen (287/159), and Marit Røsberg-Jacobsen (130/72).
Norway won bronze in 2016 and gold in 2008 and 2012.
The men’s handball team won the silver medal in both the 2017 and the 2019 World championships, but they were knocked out in the quarterfinals last winter. This is the first time the men’s handball team has been in the Olympics in 49 years. The team is unpredictable and too reliant on superstar Sander Sagosen (601/121), but with a bit of luck, they have a good chance at winning an Olympic medal. Bjarte Myrhol, 39, (795/257) announced he will retire after the Tokyo games.
Anders Mol and Christian Sørum are ranked as the best beach volleyball duo in the world. They made a comeback from injury this spring and won two tournaments in the FIVB World Tour. The lack of competitions in 2020 might have set them back.
Line Flem Høst (laser radial) won the bronze medal in the 2020 World Championship and is the Norwegian sailing team’s best chance at an Olympic medal.
Marie Rønningen/Helene Næss (49er FX) won the European Championship gold medal in 2018 and the silver medal in 2019 and 2020, and they also placed second in the test Olympics in Japan in August 2019. They were Sailors of the Year in 2019. They can compete with the best on their day.
Among the men, Hermann Tomasgaard has the best chance to medal competing in the Laser Class. Other top Norwegian competitors include Anders Pedersen.
The 2020 Olympics will be Norwegian rowing legend Olaf Tufte’s seventh and last Olympic games. Tufte started his rowing career in 1995 and competed in his first Olympics games in Atlanta 1996. Since then, Tufte has won four Olympic medals: two gold medals, one silver medal, and one bronze medal. Tufte will be competing in the men’s Quadruple Sculls with Knut-Erik Solbakken, Martin Helseth, and Jan Oscar Helvig. Of Norway’s four bronze medals in Rio, two were from rowing. Kjetil Borch won gold in single sculls in a World Cup meet in Sabaudia, Italy, on June 6.
The Norwegian shooting team won two gold medals in the 2021 European championship in May. Jon-Hermann Hegg won the gold medal in 50m Rifle 3 Positions, while Henrik Larsen won the gold medal in 50m Rifle Prone. Still, the best Norwegian events are the team competitions.
This article originally appeared in the July 9, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American.