Norway’s Mariann Marthinsen on track for gold

Nordic skier Mariann Marthinsen is aiming to follow on from fellow national greats at Sochi 2014 by winning her first Paralympic gold at her fifth winter and summer Games, to continue her current stunning form in cross-country skiing. 20 Feb 2014
Mariann Marthinsen

Mariann Marthinsen was one of Norway's strongest medal hopes at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games, where she competed in Nordic skiing.

ⒸLuc Percival
By Robert Murray | For the IPC

“My motivation comes naturally. I love doing sports and all the exciting experiences that follow being an athlete.”

If you wanted to go for a swim in a pool or spend a nice afternoon cross-country skiing in Norway over the past 10 years, chances are Mariann Marthinsen might have been in your way.

You will have to excuse her, though, as she has only one thing on her mind these days, leaving the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games with a gold medal around her neck.

The multi-talented athlete, born in Stord, Norway, in 1984, has represented her country at four different summer and winter Paralympic Games but has yet to find herself at the top of the podium.

With every ounce of strength she has, she will be looking to stop that streak dead in its tracks when she competes at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Games next month from 7-16 March.

“My technical improvement has been very good since Vancouver (2010),” said Marthinsen who had her right leg amputated at the age of two following a car accident.

“I'm more stable on the sit-ski and have better control in difficult parts (such) as curves and downhills. This time I also have a much better position on the sledge that keeps me fast and gives me a better balance and control in the courses.”

All this has meant that Marthinsen has reclaimed her place at the top of the cross-country IPC Nordic Skiing World Cup rankings this season, which she lost to Germany’s Andrea Eskau in 2011-12, ahead of Eskau and a stream of Russian skiers.

It started with a swim

Marthinsen was drawn to para-sports at the age of 17 following the encouragement of her trainer at the time.

She contacted her local swimming club hoping to gain some technical tips and build a social network for her training. What she received instead was an opportunity that has been nothing short of life-changing.

The year after that decision to reach out to her local swimming club, Marthinsen finished fourth in the 100m backstroke S8 finals at the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games. From there, she was hooked.

“My motivation comes naturally,” said Marthinsen. “I love doing sports and all the exciting experiences that follow being an athlete.”

Five years later, Marthinsen has quite an impressive trophy case in swimming. A bronze medal from Beijing 2008 and three IPC Swimming World Championship medals is an impressive haul.

Making the switch to frozen water

However, as Marthinsen’s skill improved, so did her desire to expand her range of sports. Following Beijing, Marthinsen set it in her mind that she wanted to take up cross-country skiing.

With the same passion that she displayed in the sport of swimming, Marthinsen set forth to conquer the sport that her country has come to historically dominate year after year.

Torbjorn Broks Pettersen, her coach since June 2010, has watched Marthinsen’s passion and skill for the sport grow following her first serious foray into the sport, the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games, which netted her three top-10 finishes.

As her training increases to 10-12 sessions a week leading up to Sochi 2014, Pettersen said his approach to helping her skill develop has been to allow her to return to her swimming roots and find her comfort zone for training.

“She’s calm, experienced and focused,” said Pettersen. “She focused on her swimming going into the London Paralympics and at the same time she kept on doing one to two skiing sessions a week.

“We’ve always allowed her to swim if she feels tired of skiing. This alternating between sports prevents her from getting tired of me and my system.”

Although Marthinsen said she still encounters difficulty adjusting her turns with the sit-ski, those difficulties have not hindered her ability to compete.

At the first 2013-14 IPC Nordic Skiing World Cup in Canmore, Canada, she won all three of her events and has not finished lower than fifth at a competition this season.

Now, she’s hoping to translate that success into a trip to the top of the podium in just a few weeks time.

Gold, silver or bronze, Marthinsen’s career thus far has been a gold medal-worthy performance in the competition of life as she has grown from her amputation at an early age to reach new heights in sport and socially.

If her journey and motivation is any indication of what is to come, it is not impossible to think that Marthinsen will finally be able to add that elusive Paralympic gold medal to her collection.

Biathlon and cross-country skiing competitions at Sochi 2014 run from 8-16 March at the Laura Cross-Country Ski and Biathlon Centre. More than 300 hours of action will be livestreamed on ParalympicSport.TV.

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