Surprisingly, the pre-Christmas season was perfect. Surprising, since many distracting tasks and problems caused me to have too much to think about.
And it would become even worse. Soon after New Year’s celebrations, we traveled to Kavgolovo in Russia for World Cup events. The day before the World Cup race, our team manager Ulf Morten Aune asked me to come see him in his room in the army facilities we were staying at. He then showed me an 8-foot long fax from Norway. It said that Vebjorn Rodahl, the recent 1996 Olympic Champion from Atlanta, on the whole front page of the largest newspaper in Norway, was accusing me of cheating because I was using an altitude chamber. The media pressure and the personal strain the next 4 — 5 days was more than I had ever experienced. I could not think of a worse preparation for a ski race. So a fourth place in Kavgolovo was perhaps not so bad, anyhow.
More would come. I became sick. I got a serious infection that lasted for two weeks, and caused me to skip the Norwegian Championships in Mo i Rana,. Despite being sick, I went to the Championship town. Although I had a small hope of skiing in one race, I mostly did it for the organizer. I remember the disappointed reactions the year prior when contemplating skipping the National Championship, so at least I wanted to be present. This was now received well. I was heartily welcomed, but a short ski session made it clear that I rather belonged in bed. This made me seriously worried. I imagined a six-week competition break from the last World Cup race to the first race at the World Championships. Scary.
In aftermath, I am convinced I never should have traveled to Mo i Rana. This is how sick I was.
In addition, the TV2 channel criticized us for using Melatonin on recent overseas trips. We did this to help the body adjust to the time difference, but then we were again accused of being unethical.
Building the cabin in Trysil also took time and energy. Much more than anticipated. For a while I was on the cell phone day and night trying to solve unexpected problems. But, although the preparation for the important World Championship season got interrupted, I am glad I got the cabin finished. I look at it as a great investment, and often lease it to sponsors and other organizations and parties. But I was totally exhausted after organizing the open house for the contractors and a few ski friends. I slept almost the next 24 hours, before leaving for a two-week altitude camp in Italy and Switzerland.
I was able to train during this difficult period, but the training did not have the required quality. And I never had time for the important restitution between the workouts.
Luckily, I spent the first three days of the altitude camp in Italy together with Erling Jevne. While the rest of the team lived at 2000 m altitude, we stayed at 3000 m. Erling is a trustworthy, an easygoing and sturdy farmer from Gudbrandsdalen. It is easy to get in a good mood around him. We spent a lot of time discussing how to prepare fish the best way. Erling had a lot of experience from his favorite mountain lakes back home.
Those three days did well for me. The altitude camp became a turning point. Despite all the problems, I left for Trondheim and the World Championship with cautious optimism. Cautious, since I felt I still was not in top shape, but getting closer.
With all the turbulent weeks with so many and draining distractions behind, I was unusually nervous and insecure before the opening race of the Championship, the 30-km. It went better than all expectations. Perhaps some would say that the Silver medal was a defeat, but for me it was worth Gold. I had always regarded Gold as a victory and Silver as a medal, but not this time. The Silver medal was a confirmation that I had recovered after my most difficult month as a Cross-Country skier.
During the whole weekend I thought: “Just wait until Monday. Then I’ll show everyone.”
However, insecurity existed: “Can I do it?”
“Bjorn, it is time to get up. It is three and a half-hour until start”.
And today Erik also says: “You are not among the 20 that have been selected for hemoglobin control, so you have plenty of time.”
But now it is important to clear the mind. Now only one thing matters: What happens from 10:42 AM and for 25 minutes or so. The 10-km classical technique race at the 1997 Nordic World Ski Championship.