Exactly 20 years after Grace Bullen (24) arrived in Norway as a refugee from Eritrea, she is our best hope for a medal at the World Wrestling Championships in Oslo in October.
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In the documentary series “Head in a pinch” on NRK, the 24-year-old from Fredrikstad recounts the powerful experiences she had as a little girl fleeing the war.
– The age of refugees has really affected me a lot, says Bullen in the documentary.
She has talked about it before, but not in such detail. Bullen likes training and competitions more than interviews and television appearances. Childhood experiences can be a good explanation for why this is so.
Mother Regina Yangi and father Jacob Bullen had moved for the first time from South Sudan with their two older sisters. Grace was born in Eritrea.
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– My first two years in Eritrea were quite uneventful, then there are starting to be many uprisings in the country and we are no longer sure. I heard a lot. Bombs or people who were shot, says Bullen.
– I remember that I was very scared and at one point I was completely numb from everything that was happening around us. My older brothers took me a lot. When they looked forward, I always looked back at what we had been through.
Strong memories burned in her small body, and she definitely understood the seriousness:
– We had to be calm and quiet. Because we made a mistake, it could be the last …
On September 11, 2001, the same day that the world’s attention was focused on the terrorist attack in New York, four-year-old Grace and her family flew to Norway.
She was scarred for life after the experiences.
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– I’d rather be forgotten. I didn’t want to fall in love with people, says Bullen of her early years in Fredrikstad.
– never smiled
Bullen did not want to say anything more about the leak, but is aware that VG is discussing the case. ON an interview with VG in 2017 She answered the following questions about what she had learned during her years on the run:
– That I should be grateful for the things I have. But I must also think that I grew up in a western culture. It has affected me, so sometimes they spoil me. But I can always remind myself that “you know what, what you have is more than enough and what you are is more than good enough.”
Helped by the wrestling environment
In Fredrikstad, the Atlas fight club eventually became a stage where little Grace developed his social and physical skills.
He found more people to fall in love with, including coach Gheorghe Costin, who remains his head coach.
– I remember very well how it was at the beginning when training in Atlas. Grace was a caring little girl who couldn’t be more than five or six years old. She just trained and never smiled, Joakim Aardalen tells VG.
He was even in his late teens and on his way to a solid senior career with a series of NM gold medals and national team matches. The girl locked up in joint training did not excel in sports.
– It was easy to notice the older sister, because she had a much greater talent. For a long time, Grace was simply “Filfa’s little sister”, but Grace eventually stood out with something that was completely unique in relation to everyone else. The will to train was enormous, says Aardalen.
He himself remembers well when he told the youngest in training at Atlas that those who wanted to be more than just medal candidates at the National Championships could come forward to train at. 06.00 the next morning.
One of them asked, and that was Grace Bullen.
– She just wanted something more than everyone else, says Aardalen, who in the years since has helped follow her.
The will to train gave impressive results. He landed a handful of gold medals as a young man in NC, Nordic Championships, Youth EC, Youth WC, and Youth Summer Olympics. At the senior level, she became European champion in 2017 and 2020, after taking silver the previous year at just 19 years old.
Great World Cup hope
In 2018, he took gold in the U23 WC and finished fifth in the senior WC. Like the rest of the national wrestling team, she has wrestled in the wake of the crown period, and also got sick in November 2019.
Aardalen believes that Bullen can live up to the high expectations at the Oslo WC. Saw the trend then bullen in a bitter way missed the Olympic spot in Tokyo with 32 seconds left in the match.
– What he delivered in the last Olympic qualification was impressive. There he beat extremely good fighters on the road, says Aardalen.
– This is what happens when you have the frame and the security with the right people around you. That is also what he has in the Oslo World Cup, and I have very good feelings. With a little flap, you can go all the way to the top, Aardalen concludes.
P.S! The second episode of “Hodet i klemme” is available on NRK.no on Sunday morning.