Dear Norway

As you know, my grandmother was born and raised in Bern, I lived in Hamar for a few months a few years ago, I loved Elling, Out Stealing Horses was brilliant, my wife drops mad kroner on lefse every Christmas, and my conservative friends think I’m a closet socialist.

I’m writing because I couldn’t help but notice Sweden kicked your ass in the 30K combined.

I’m not applying for the soon-to-be vacant x-country coaching positions, I’m writing to offer my services in the relays.

As your scouts no doubt informed you, I trained under Tore’s expert supervision at Gasbu. Granted, I’m prone to fall when descending, I have a hard time getting into and out of tracks, I’m often off-balance, and I don’t know how to skate.

On the other hand, I can get to Whistler in six-seven hours depending on the border and I may be just the spark the team needs. Car’s packed and I’m awaiting your call. Call now and I will have time to learn how to skate.

In Anticipation,

Ron

p.s. Tell the equipment and clothing peeps that I’m 188cm with a 86cm inseam. And could I get a couple extra tics to the closing ceremonies?

Taking the Call

6 thoughts on “Dear Norway

  1. Did you get the call? My guess is no, since Sweden won the 4x10k relay! Thanks for the words “Sweden kicked [Norway’s] ass.” Always a good combination of words (that we don’t get to see too often). Beats a smörgåsbord, and definitely lefse.

    • Always great to “hear” from you. Actually, as you know, Norway came on pretty darn strong after my offer. Read an interesting blog post during the Games that asked “Why don’t Scandinavian countries do better in figure skating?” Since you’re one of the smartest Scandinavians I know, what’s your hypothesis?

  2. Hmmm. Not something I have given much thought. My guess would be that our culture and society is not prone to shaping and pressing young kids, individually, to the extent that is required for success in that type of sport. We don’t have any world-class gymnasts these days either, and in my mind those sports and the time and effort and the type of training and coaching you have to put into them, starting at a very young age, seem similar. Even in our large sports (which are also more team-oriented) — hockey, soccer, skiing — there is a lot of societal resistance to pressing (even talented and ambitious and eager) kids too hard. Now that I think about it, some of our best and most successful individual athletes actually have their parents as coaches: Stefan Holm (high jump) coached by his father; Anja Pärson (downhill skiing) coached by her father; Anna Lindberg (diving) coached by her mother. Hiring somebody to put that kind of dedication into and pressure on a child here is not common practice. It’s also not financially possible for most people. So the sports that are large and popular — and therefore also better subsidized — “win.” I would also guess that although we have very many ice rinks, they are probably primarily used for hockey and something called “bandy” (not sure if it has an English name; it’s a bit like hockey but it’s played with a ball) — and, of course, mostly for boys, even here. Big hockey clubs get more and better time slots. Note: you say “Scandinavia,” and I’m not sure I can speak for the Danes (the only winter sport I’ve seen them in is curling) or even the Norwegians (who are not a big hockey nation). And I know (and have heard) nothing of Iceland in this subject. So my guesses are Swedish and nothing else! And they are just that: guesses. So much for smart!

  3. I’m not a fan of golf, so I know very little about her or her sport. But I think that at the time that her talent was discovered and developed, golf was a sport for the very wealthy here (and they were few). (I don’t know her history, but her father was an executive at the company I work for here…) That has changed a lot since then (probably much because of her success, in fact). Golf is a huge sport here today, and not only among the very wealthy (I had to look up and check: an estimated 400,000 Swedes play golf today; that’s close to 5% of the entire population). And there are golf courses everywhere (something which I am not particularly fond of because I think we can make better use of the world’s scarce water resources than irrigate golf greens). I can’t really answer your question, I’m afraid. There are probably many outliers, and Annika Sörenstam may indeed be one of them.

    Maybe, getting back to the origin of this discussion, figure skating is simply too flamboyant and fancy for our Lutheran tastes? Not rugged enough, not stoic enough, not plain enough? Maybe we think there’s more purpose and clarity in sports where you have to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible or where you have to use your body or a utensil to move an object toward a specific goal — more purpose to that than moving around in the same area and trying to do so as perfectly and beautifully and gracefully as possible, and to music, at that, while showing and conveying emotions that are not simply a result of fatigue or willpower or killer instinct or loss or victory. Not our best event, perhaps? We are not known for producing great ballet dancers, either, as far as I know. Perhaps it’s a question of sensibilities and cultural values. But that theory may fall as well, if you look to other like-minded countries/regions (I can’t really think of any (it’s late here) — maybe Canada; they’re successful and perhaps similar to us in many respects, culturally. The Germans seem to have immigrated Eastern Europeans in their line-ups and that’s a very different story…). To throw out another theory which may have little or no grounds: gender roles are quite set in figure skating. I don’t think it’s a Swedish girl’s dream anymore (or that of her parents) — and hasn’t been so for quite a while now — to become a ballerina or a figure skater. I of course can’t make the same argument for the men! Not sure there.

    But the Salchow and the Axel jump are named for Scandinavians; always brought up by the figure skating commentators here! Personally, I love watching the big figure skating championships, and I know that television broadcasts of the big championships have big audiences here. But of all the Scandinavians I have known in my life, I have never heard anyone express a desire or wish to become a figure skater. Swimmer, skier, golfer, hockey player, soccer player, sprinter, marathon runner — yes. Not figure skater. But we watch them with awe, and perhaps also with a secret desire to dazzle with pirouettes.

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