Hallgeir Engebråten (22) ran the course of his life and took bronze in 5000 meters. A completely different Norwegian figure skater was the reason why Norway had an Olympic place in the distance at all.
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With a cry of distress, the Norwegian men managed to secure one place in the 5000 meters for the Olympics. But it was not Sunday’s bronze winner, Hallgeir Engebråten, who procured it.
Before the last qualifying race – the fourth World Cup round in Calgary just before Christmas – Engebråten, Sverre Lunde Pedersen (29) and star shot Sander Eitrem (19) fought to secure Norway one or two places in the distance.
In the end, it was Eitrem who managed to capture one quota place for Norway, after entering a personal record with a time of 6.12.87.
But when it became clear who would actually go the distance in the Olympics, Eitrem did not get the opportunity. The 19-year-old, who is not part of the national team, has not been part of the Norwegian team tempo team. Both Lunde Pedersen and Engebråten have been absolutely central, and the team pace ahead of the Olympics was considered a great medal chance.
With only seven quota places for the Norwegian men’s runners, it was thus considered that there was no place for Eitrem in the Norwegian Olympic squad.
– It is boring, as it looks now, that he is not likely to go to the Olympics. I’m impressed with what he’s done. But he has many Olympics ahead of him, said Lunde Pedersen to VG about the withdrawal dilemma.
“Sander has every reason to be disappointed and angry – and he should be,” Engebråten told Glåmdalen.
Eitrem himself says the following about the decision:
– It was of course incredibly awkward to get the phone before Christmas that there will be no European Championships and Olympics. It took a while to digest it, but in retrospect, when Hallgeir gets that place and goes so well, it goes well. But I would rather go and be there myself, he says to VG.
In the European Championships in January, where Norway got quiet with two runners in 5000 meters, there was a purely American withdrawal between Lunde Pedersen and Engebråten.
It ended with bronze for Engebråten, and thus he had secured a place in the 5000 meters in the Olympics.
While Lunde Pedersen is also in the Olympic squad and is in place in Beijing, Eitrem went this weekend in the Norwegian Cup in Kristiansund. There he has set track records of 1500, 3000 and 5000 meters. In the latter distance, he clocked in at 6.35.8 – on what is an assumed far slower track than the Olympic arena in Beijing.
On Sunday, there were 1500 and 5000 on the program, and before he himself went into action, he just got the bronze for Engebråten before the start of the 1500-meter.
– I had to bring it with me, when he did so well in the third pair and was so well placed. Then I just had to take my time, says Eitrem.
Engebråten and Eitrem are daily club mates in Nord-Odal Idrettslag, even though Eitrem is admittedly from Toten – on the opposite side of Lake Mjøsa.
– I’m incredibly proud of him. He’s done it the hard way. He has trained for many, many years and worked hard. That bronze medal is so deserved, says Eitrem.
– I get inspired, I must say. I follow in the footsteps of Hallgeir, I feel myself. So it just gives a lot of motivation, he says.
And maybe there can also be two runners from Nord-Odal IL in the all-round WC in Hamar in March. Who gets the three Norwegian places will be decided in a selection conference in Stavanger last weekend in February.