Part 18 – In the Right Place at the Right Time

FasterSkierFebruary 22, 2003

(Beginning of book’s 3rd chapter: “Why I Became Good”)

I was lucky. Time after time I was at the right place at the right time. I lived in Nannestad with its club, Bjerke, which had one of Norway’s best and most exciting cross-country skiing communities. We had top skiers like Lars Erik Eriksen and Anette Bœe and the dynamic and inspiring leader Terje Bogen. Naturally it was great for development to be a young and ambitious skier and a part of this environment. For me it was also a benefit that Lars Erik was close to the end of his career. He was on the way down, while I was on the way up. During workouts I would notice that the difference between his level and mine was becoming gradually smaller. It made me work a little extra: I understood that it was realistic to have the goal of being as good as, or even better, than none other than Lars Erik Eriksen.

The outspoken Anette Bœe, who won two gold and one bronze medal in the 1985 World Championships, also created a stir. When she once saw that I would wave my poles too much from side to side as I skied, she let me know in a way that I would never forget: “Screw everything around you. Ski straight in the tracks!” I was not used to hearing girls use such crass language.

Also when I reached the national team, I was lucky. Here, too, I could train with skiers who were better than I was, and who did what they could to help me. I thought it was a big deal to train with skiers like PÃ¥l Gunnar Mikkelsplass and Vegard Ulvang. No other skier has meant as much to me as Vegard. But I also learned quite a bit from PÃ¥l Gunnar. When PÃ¥l Gunnar was in shape, he was the world’s best classic skier. No one, neither before nor since, has had such good technique as he has. It is amazing how much I learned by skiing kilometer after kilometer behind him. I studied his style and copied it as well as I could. I still remember how proud I was when PÃ¥l Gunner said to my father during a dinner at home with us: “If Bjœrn continues in the same way, he will soon be better than me.” Unfortunately PÃ¥l Gunnar was soon haunted by illness and has therefore not had as many victories as he had the capacity for.

I think with joy about how great they all were, Lars Erik, PÃ¥l Gunnar and Vegard Ulvang. They brought me along and taught me all they could, even when they knew that I was on the verge of being a dangerous competitor. And of course I did pass them after a while. First Lars Erik, then PÃ¥l Gunnar, and finally Vegard. They all deserve a bit of the honor.

There was also an event that happened far from Norwegian cross-country skiing’s community, but would have enormous meaning for my development as a skier. On September 15, 1988, IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch stood at the lectern in Seoul, South Korea and said the four words that sports fans in Norway will never forget: “The decision is Lillehammer.”
It was the start to the biggest sports effort in Norwegian history. At the Olympics on our home field, the world was to really see what the winter nation of Norway could do. More money was allocated to sport than ever before, and projects were set in motion that we had only dreamed of earlier.

Think about being a part of that. Again, I was in the right place at the right time.


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