Now it is serious.
In the half-dark I get to my feet. Room six at the Tambartun School, where we have been provided housing, isn't big, but it is enough. Of course it's a mess. I step over bags, training gear, water bottles and newspapers. And over there is a marzipan pig I have gotten for Kristen Skjeldal. He is my idol. If everyone in the world were like him, there wouldn't be any wars. But his mother is firm when it comes to candy, so I think I need to take care of his sweet tooth when we are traveling.
In many contexts I am a pig. It is true that I forgot my racing suits at home in Nannestad when we left for Trondheim for this World Championships. Of course the champion-of-taking-care-of-things, Erik Rœste, was able to get me new ones. But when we get close to a competition, I have control of things that mean something. My race suit I lay out last night, together with my socks, long underwear, gloves, hat, and warm-ups. They are easily organized, so that I can find everything without using energy or creating unnecessary irritation on a day that is as important as this.
You bet, this is important. But regardless of how it goes out in the tracks in about three hours, we are going to have a lot of fun before we travel back home. It is always like this in the athletes' camps, where we live isolated but still manage to find something to create a little life. I remember my first championships with the “big boys”: Calgary in 1988. Pal Gunnar Mikkelsplass and Tor Hkon Holte bought remote control cars and we drove them around an obstacle course made of glass soda bottles. In Albertville in 1992 we smuggled air rifles into the camp. We did this by hiding them in the bottom of breadboxes that were made of aluminum. Between gold medals and hard competitions we shot at crows and targets. It was then that we realized that Terje Langli might have been able to do even better in shooting than he did on skis [ed note: Terje Langli was the 1991 world champion in the 10 kilometer in Val di Femme]. But when we brought the air rifles inside and began to shoot at candles on tables, the “clan-leader” Vegard Ulvang stepped in and put a stop to it.
Here at Tambartun it has been mostly billiards and videos. Filmnet installed a video system with piles of films to pick from. Inge Braten (former head coach) now works for Filmnet. He supplied the group with a few “under the counter” films, but when the women on the team discovered them they were effectively removed.
Childish? Yes, it is probably a little. But at the same time this type of nonsense is important when one lives as isolated and closely with others as we do during Olympics and World Championships camps. It is important to keep the mood light. Without that, it is not possible to do our very best.
Can I do it today? Can I do my very best, to ski the perfect race? Especially after the last difficult weeks?
It is time to find out.