Håvard Holmefjord Lorentzen and Sverre Lunde Pedersen age 11
Norwegian speed skating enjoys a resurgence. Håvard Lorentzen and Sverre Lunde Pedersen already won World Cup races in the fresh Olympic season and Sindre Henriksen took his first podium with bronze in de 1500m in Stavanger.The three skaters, all born in 1992, grew up together at FANA IL Skating club in Bergen.
“We have skated together since we were eight years old,” Lorentzen says.
“Of course we dreamed of this when we were kids. We were racing our own competitions and imagined that we were in World Championships or Olympics.
“We had a World Champion in our club at the time, whom we really looked up to. Rune Stordal won the 1500m World title in Inzell in 2005. To be up here in the World Cup with the three of us ourselves now, is amazing.”
Gold makes the headlines
Lorentzen took his maiden World Cup win with a gold medal in the 500m at the first leg of the ISU World Cup Speed skating on 10 November in Heerenveen, and added 500m and 1000m victories to his tally in Stavanger a week later. The sprinter is happy to bring his sport back into the public eye.
“There’s been a lot of attention in the media. We have a lot of history in speed skating. But Norway has a lot of other winter sports too, ice hockey, cross country skiing, biathlon, alpine skiing…
“Last year I took silver in the World Sprint Speed Skating Championships. That was mentioned but not broadly covered in the media. In Norwegian winter sports you really have to win if you want to make the big headlines.”
Although Sindre Hendriksen hasn’t won gold yet, he enjoyed the spotlights for Norwegian speed skating in Stavanger too.
“What can we say? This is crazy. Who would have thought this some years ago? And it’s an Olympic season too, so the level is pretty high,” he said after his bronze 1500m medal behind gold medal winner Pedersen.
“We have a lot of speed skating tradition in Norway of course, and the people want this to happen. Last season was not so good for us, but we’ve been patient and we managed to turn things around. We have a very good mentality and atmosphere in the team and that pays off now.”
A long time coming
The 1500m top-ten in Stavanger included four Norwegian skaters, with 19-year-old youngsters Allan Dahl Johansson (NOR) and 30-year-old veteran Håvard Bøkko coming sixth and tenth behind Pedersen and Hendriksen.
The results had been a long time coming, Pedersen explained:
“It takes time to build up a new generation. We’ve been a big group of young skaters a little longer but now we get older, so we just had to wait some years. It’s always been there.
“We had a really strong junior team back in 2011-2012. Now it’s all coming along and it looks good for the future.”
Allan Dahl Johnsson and Sverre Lunde Pedersen
Lorentzen agrees with Pedersen. “It’s very hard to bridge the gap from junior to senior level,” he says.
“It’s totally different. In the juniors I used to win with 1 minute, and 10 seconds or so in the 1000m, to win a senior medal you have to be 2,5 seconds faster at least. It may not seem to be much, but it takes a long time to gain those final seconds.
“To go from 1:13m to 1:10m is far more easy. To go from 1:10m to 1:09m and then to 1:08m and 1:07… those are the big steps.”
Norway coach and former 500m world record holder Jeremy Wotherspoon helped Lorentzen to raise his game significantly. Like 1998 Norwegian Olympic 1500m Champion Ådne Søndrål, Wotherspoon was one of the skaters Lorentzen used to look up to as a kid.
“It’s great to have him as our coach. He has trained us for one-and-a-half year and he’s been a big influence on my skating. He’s helped me with the day-to-day training schedules.
“He’s also helped me with my technique and the mental aspects of speed skating. How to stay calm if you skate in the final pairing. If you see all the times the others have skated before you, it’s hard to focus on the right things. In the 500m there’s no room for mistakes.”
Håvard Holmefjord Lorentzen
Confidence is key, says Lorentzen, and Norwegian team spirit helps a lot in that department. Lorentzen:
“Skating good races helps a lot and to see your team mates skating well also gives a real confidence boost.”
The Norwegian sprint and endurance athletes often train together. “Usually we have training camps in the same place. The others can take advantage of me for top speed and I can stay behind the others to train endurance,” he explains.
The early season results give the Norwegian skaters a lot of confidence, but how will they maintain their current form throughout the long Olympic season?
Lorentzen: “In Norway we don’t have an Olympic Qualification tournament. In that part of the season we have the possibility of training, whereas a lot of our internationals have to compete nationally to earn their Olympic tickets.”
The Norwegian sprinter counts himself in as one of the gold medal contenders in Pyeongchang: “The others look at me differently now. They have to count me in as one of the guys who can be up there on the podium.”
Lorentzen could win both the 1000m and the 500m, but he prefers the latter: “Someone told me that it’s more than fifty years ago that the last Norwegian speed skater took gold in the 500m. That’s a long time ago.”
The last Olympic 500m champion was Finn Helgesen at the 1948 Olympics in Sankt Moritz, Switzerland.