Sverre Lunde Pedersen (NOR) competing at the 2020 Combined ISU World Sprint & World Allround Speed Skating Championships in Hamar, Norway © International Skating Union (ISU)
Norway did not manage to conquer the maximum number of entries in Speed Skating for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games, but the future looks bright, says youngster Allan Dahl Johansson. This week the first ten Norwegian Speed Skaters in long track were announced. Despite a severe bike crash last summer, Sverre Lunde Pedersen made the cut. Four years ago he was the main engine in the Norwegian squad that won the Men’s Olympic Team Pursuit gold.
Håvard Holmefjord Lorentzen (NOR) competing at the 2021 ISU World Cup Speed Skating in Calgary, Canada © International Skating Union (ISU)
Norway’s medal haul at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Games
With two gold medals, a silver and a bronze at the 2018 Games in PyeongChang (KOR), Norway had their best Olympics in Speed Skating since the home Games in Lillehammer (1994), when the hosts topped the medal ranking with three golds and two silvers.
Håvard Lorentzen was Norway’s top gun four years ago, with gold in the men’s 500m and silver in the 1000m. The 29-year-old sprinter has been struggling with a hip injury over the past years, but seems to be back on track with two fourth places in this year’s World Cup 1000m, and third place in the ranking so far.
Pedersen in time for Beijing 2022
Sverre Lunde Pedersen also took two medals four years ago. Apart from gold in the Team Pursuit, he also grabbed bronze in the 5000m, missing silver by two thousands of a second. Due to his bike crash last summer, Pedersen started this Olympic season in arrears. The 29-year-old, who grew up with Lorentzen at the Fana IL Speed Skating club in Bergen, fought back, however.
Pedersen missed out on this season’s first World Cup in Tomaszów Mazowiecki, Poland, but got back onto the international circuit in the B Division 5000m at the second World Cup in Stavanger, Norway. The B Division performances were not good enough to secure two Olympic tickets for Norway in the 5000m, but he still got picked for the Olympic team, being an important engine in the Team Pursuit Squad.
Reigning Olympic champions Norway finished second in this year’s Team Pursuit World Cup rankings. The still recovering Pedersen joined the team when they took silver in the final World Cup Team Pursuit race this season at the Calgary Olympic Oval on December 12, 2021.
“Of course, we went for the victory today,” Pedersen said in Calgary. “USA was overall the strongest team and they had a world record last weekend, so they're really strong and maybe the biggest favorites for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games. We have some things to improve and for myself, I have a lot to improve. So hopefully it can be even faster in Beijing”.
“I'm actually really happy where I stand now. I started up training in August and since then, the shape has been improving day-by-day, week-by-week, and I'm surprised how far I am at the moment. It gives me motivation and belief in the (Olympic) Games. Hopefully, I can bring some quality to the Team Pursuit. I think that will be our biggest medal chance.”
Connor Howe (CAN), Joey Mantia (USA) and Allan Dahl Johansson (NOR) receiving their medals at the 2021 ISU World Cup Speed Skating in Calgary, Canada © International Skating Union (ISU)
Norwegian hope: Allan Dahl Johansson
Allan Dahl Johansson is another medal chance for Norway in Beijing 2022. The 23-year-old took his first World Cup medal in four years, when he ranked third in the 1500m at the ISU Speed Skating Championships in Calgary this month.
When asked whether he was the new Norwegian hope in Speed Skating two weeks earlier in Stavanger (NOR), Johansson said: “No, I’m not the new Norwegian hope, I am the Norwegian hops, but we have many hopes in Norway.”
“We may not have that many (skaters) on the top, but we have a really strong young team. I’m still pretty young, my best days are still ahead of me. But we also have Hallgeir Engebråten, Peder Kongshaug and Kristian Ulekleiv. We are all improving over the years. It’s just about time, I need a few more years of good training.”
The future may look bright, but Johansson is aiming for the highest in the present too. After his bronze race in Calgary he said: “It wasn't that good of a race actually. I'm starting to train a little bit again, so we can be in good shape at the Olympics. It’s nice to see I can do it (being on the podium), Hopefully I'm going to stand in the middle in February.”
Ragne Wiklund (NOR) havong won the bronze medal at the 2021 ISU World Cup Speed Skating in Salt Lake City, USA © International Skating Union (ISU)
Ragne Wiklund’s chance for a long-awaited Speed Skating Women’s medal
Although Norway was third in the Speed Skating medal ranking four years ago, the last Norwegian Women’s medal dates back to 1980, when Bjørg Eva Jensen took gold in the 3000m. Ragne Wiklund is today Norway’s hope to end the draught in Beijing 2022.
The 21-year-old from Oslo joined the international Speed Skating elite last season, when she surprisingly won the 1500m World title in Heerenveen on February 14, 2021. This season she won World Cup bronzes in the 5000m (Stavanger, Norway) and the 3000m (Salt Lake City, USA).
“I’m very happy with it and the feeling was very good,” Wiklund said in at the ISU World Cup Speed Skating in Stavanger, Norway. “This is early in the season, I don’t have the speed for a 1500m yet, but I hope that will come later.”
As a typical all-round skater, Wiklund will aim at the 1500m, the 3000m and the 5000m at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
Marijke Groenewoud (NED), Ivanie Blondin (CAN) and Sofie Karoline Haugen (NOR) at the 2021 ISU World Cup Speed Skating in Salt Lake City, USA © International Skating Union (ISU)
Just the beginning for Sofie Karoline Haugen
Not all the Norwegian women have been selected yet for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, but Sofie Karoline Haugen is sure to join Ragne Wiklund in Beijing. The 26-year-old endurance specialist, won her first World Cup medal in the Mass Start in Salt Lake City early December.
“A big surprise,” she said, but also an indication that there might be more in store for the future. “Yeah, absolutely. I think this is just the beginning. I just I got more confidence now.”
Haugen’s comment not just covers her own ambitions, but those of Norwegian Speed Skaters as a whole.