Thanks to Everyone from the Norwegian / US Junior National Exchange Program “Ambassadors for Sport and Culture”.
With the classic mass start race in Fairbanks we wrapped up a busy month of racing on both sides of the Atlantic, and building a bridge between US and Norwegian Junior skiing. In February, with help from the National Nordic Foundation and the US Embassy in Oslo, 12 American Juniors and two US coaches went to Lillehammer to participate in the Norwegian Junior National Championships, and in March six Norwegian J1 skiers and two coaches came to Fairbanks for our JN’s. Each trip was a great success. The American athletes got a chance to see where they stood in a big field of competitors, and the experience of extended race travel, and the Norwegian kids were able to show their stuff as the top athletes in their class at home, but also saw that they had to work for their supper. They were impressed with how we are coming along in the US.
The “Thank You!” list is a long one.
I personally need to thank Bjorn Ilsemann, the Norwegian Coach who worked hard to make this happen with his school, the Norwegian College of Elite Sport, or NTG, and who initiated the contact with the US Embassy. Bjorn also helped us on the ground in Norway with waxing, split times, and countless useful contacts. We look forward to more work with him in the future.
Next on the list is Per-Ola Gasmann, the head coach from NTG Lillehammer. He found our early group a great housing set up, and arranged for a super deal on cabins for the whole gang. He and his colleagues were quick and generous with wax tips and practical help from bright, heated wax rooms with million dollar views, to fun evenings at Peppe’s Pizza. He also led the Norwegian troop to Fairbanks. Of course we thank all of those athletes as well. They made a huge contribution to pushing the bar a little higher for everyone at the JN’s.
I had run a trip to the Norwegian JN’s last year, and this year I wanted to expand it, and to try to make it available to athletes who might have been on the bubble for the J1 trip or World Juniors. It seemed to me that working with the National Nordic Foundation might be a good fit, and thanks to Dave Knoop, James Southam and the rest of the Foundation’s steering committee for thinking so too! NNF’s help with publicity and coaches’ airfare really made the trip a “go” and combined with the help form NTG on keeping housing costs in line in Norway we were able to keep the trip costs at the lower end. The National Nordic Foundation doesn’t make a lot of noise, but it is truly putting the shoulder to the wheel to help develop US Skiing and we are grateful.
The US Embassy in Oslo approved our request for a grant on behalf of what we call the “Ambassadors for Sport and Culture” and that is a huge help. The Counselor for Press and Cultural Affairs, Timothy Moore, the Embassy staff and Ambassador Barry White also made the American group welcome with an exceptionally informative visit to the Embassy in Oslo. They took a lot of time answering our questions and they were genuinely interested in our trip and in our sport. Thanks to the Embassy.
Many folks in Fairbanks went out of their way to help. Eric and Katie Buetow shared their home with the Norwegian team and made sure we enjoyed the fruits of Alaska seas with meals of shrimp, halibut, and sockeye salmon. John Estle smoothed all the official paths for us, and Pete Leonard did a lot of behind the scenes work before we arrived. Thanks to Pete, and to Scott Jerome and Brian Pepper of UAF, we had wax tables, irons, and everything we needed to keep the show on the road with good skis. The team from the Great Lakes region was good company in the wax trailer at Birch Hill.
Personal thanks go out to all the coaches and athletes at the US JN’s for being welcoming and so positive about having the Norwegian kids there. Everyone seemed to think it was an opportunity and all were eagerly paying attention. The Norwegian kids are very good at home too; this was not the second string. So when American kids beat them, or hung with them, lessons were there for all and that is what development is all about.
This was a group effort and we are grateful to all who pitched in to making it happen. We will do our best to tune it up again for next year.