“I think we are going to be a medal candidate, but I don’t think we are ready for the gold yet at the moment.”
Editor’s note: Every Wednesday in the lead-up to the 2013 IPC Ice Sledge Hockey A and B Pool World Championships this season, Paralympic.org will publish its Sledge Spotlight, allowing the public to meet the faces behind the helmets. Each week, we will feature one ice sledge hockey player, giving fans a chance to get to know them better.
Morten Vaernes has noticed a major difference in Norway’s ice sledge hockey team this season, particularly when he looks around at his teammates.
Many of them have changed.
Just a few familiar faces remain from the Norwegian squad that won bronze at the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games, and with a young, inexperienced team, Vaernes said he would pleased to just make the semi-finals at April’s A-Pool
World Championships in Goyang, Korea.
“I think we are going to be a medal candidate, but I don’t think we are ready for the gold yet at the moment,” Vaernes said. “We have lost a lot of players, and the young ones aren’t at the same level yet, but hopefully in time.”
“Our goal is to get to the semi-finals at the World Championships and take it from there and maybe even go for the bronze.”
The veteran forward added that maybe by the time the Sochi 2014 Games roll around next year Norway could be considered in the running for gold, but that the programme definitely needs some more time to gel as a team.
Rolf Pederson, who many argue is one of the best ice sledge hockey players of all-time, remains with Vaernes on this year’s squad, as does new captain Stig Tore Svee and rising star Jan Roger Klakegg.
Prior to the World Championships, Vaernes and his teammates will be tested by Estonia, Italy and Sweden in a few weeks at the Paralympic Winter World Cup in Solleftea from 1-3 March.
Here’s a closer look at Morten Vaernes …
Loves to play against: USA. They play hard, but fair, so it’s always a good time to play them. Against USA, it’s always clean hits. It’s always hard, tough hockey, but it’s clean. And they have a great team as well.
Most memorable game: The bronze-medal game in Vancouver, when we beat Canada with 3.6 seconds left. I know they hate that game, of course, but we love it because we beat them on their home ice and because of the way we played. We played very good defensively and got the goal we needed and the bronze, and we didn’t expect it at all.
Pet peeve: In sledge hockey, airborn tackles to the head, especially from Canada. They always do it and I’m not a big fan of it.
Pre-game meal: Pasta
Post-game meal: Chicken and rice, even though I know that’s boring.
Pre-game music: Rock usually. Foo Fighters, Rammstein or Metallica.
Models his game after: Steven Gerrard of Liverpool football because he’s more of a general sports role model. In hockey, I don’t have a specific role model.