“The coffee is great.” Peter Kongshaug smiles. Apart from Speed Skating, good coffee is another passion the 19-year-old newbee in the Norwegian squad shares with his older teammates. After winning the junior title in the 1000m at the ISU World Junior Speed Skating Championships last season, Kongshaug was promoted to the senior selection last summer.
Kongshaug grew up in Stavanger. “I did a lot of sports,” he says. “I started Speed Skating after the new indoor Sørmarka Arena opened in 2010. I was not extremely talented. I was tiny and often beaten by stronger kids my age. But I liked the speed on only a small blade of steel. When I was fifteen, I quit football to only focus on Speed Skating and at 16 or 17, I chose to go to a sports school to try and become as good as possible in Speed Skating. It was very professional at this age already, with training in the morning and in the afternoon.”
World Junior Champion
Peder Kongshaug (NOR) at the ISU World Junior Speed Skating Championships 2020©International Skating Union (ISU)
How did a ‘not extremely talented kid’ come to be a an ISU World Junior Speed Skating champion? Kongshaug: “I was the youngest in our team in Stavanger and I started pretty late. One of the others was much more developed than me and he was one of the best in Norway at our age when we were about 12 or 13. That was a big motivation for me. The fact that my teenage growth spurt came pretty late, also helped. I had a good three or four years before I lost my golden age in which you can develop best technically.”
Peder Kongshaug (NOR) at the ISU European Speed Skating Championships 2021©International Skating Union (ISU)
After having lost this golden age, Kongshaug’s development as a skater did not falter. He went to the ISU World Junior Speed Skating Championships in Poland in 2020 as one of the favorites at age 18. “I was super nervous,” he looks back. ”I was aiming at the overall title, but I crashed in the 500m. It felt as if the whole weekend was over immediately. I came fourth in the 1500m and I was super down and didn’t see any reason to skate the rest of the weekend anymore. When I got back to the hotel, I started looking for plane tickets home the next day, but my coaches talked me out of it. When I got to the ice for the 1000m, I was not one of the favorites, but I set a time that no one else was able to beat. That was an important lesson: sometimes you have bad days in Speed Skating, you have to forget about that.”
Peder Kongshaug (NOR) at the ISU World Cup Speed Skating 1 2021©International Skating Union (ISU)
After his 1000m World Junior Title, Kongshaug, though still a junior, was invited to the national senior team. The season was not quite what he’d expected due to COVID-19 restrictions, but Kongshaug was happy to finally be able to skate international races in the Heerenveen Hub in January. “I did my qualification races in Norway, but then the ISU European Speed Skating Championships did not go as planned (Kongshaug did not qualify for the 10,000m and finished fourteenth overall), but like I learned at the Junior World Championships, you just cannot only have good days.”
Teammates and friends
Peder Kongshaug (NOR) at the ISU Speed Skating Hub in Heerenveen (NED) 2021©International Skating Union (ISU)
One week later Kongshaug bounced back at the first of two ISU World Cup Speed Skating events in the Heerenveen Hub. He came eighth in the 1500m in a personal best time and beat teammate Sverre Lunde Pedersen by 0.03 seconds. Pedersen had been an idol for Kongshaug when he was a kid: “When I grew up, I watched him a lot on television. For me as a skater that was a great motivation, and now it’s great to be on the same team with him. He’s a great athlete and a friend.” The older teammates welcomed Kongshaug with open arms, on the ice and off the ice as well. The latter is important, because the athletes very much depend on each other, while living in the Speed Skating bubble for five weeks.
One of the things that keeps the Norwegians occupied when they’re not on the ice is their coffee. “We really are a bunch of baristas,” Kongshaug says. “There’s seven skaters who have an espresso machine at home and we made a deal with a Norwegian supplier to get us a real rocket machine in the bubble as well.”
Apart from drinking quality coffee, Kongshaug tries to study a bit while in the bubble. “I’m taking a degree in computer science at the moment, but I don’t know whether that’s really the thing for me. I also like photography and radiography.” First and foremost, Kongshaug is a Speed Skater, however. “My main goal is qualifying for the Olympic Games. Next year may be too soon for medals, but I’m young. I have to think long term.”