"Finding that limit between burning yourself out too early and passing the finish line totally worn out demands a little experience, so the racings and testing have been important this year.”
When Birgit Skarstein makes her Nordic skiing debut at the season-opening World Para Nordic Skiing World Cup on 9 December, she will do so carrying plenty of positive momentum, thanks to a successful rowing season that saw her win the World Championship title.
“The moment of crossing the finish line [in Sarasota, USA] was quite extraordinary,” Skarstein reflected. “It was a tremendous relief to see that we had managed to succeed with our plans for the past year, and I was so happy all the hard work payed off.”
Her victory in Sarasota, USA, was her second World Championship title in rowing, which was three years ago. It was the 28-year-old’s first in the new 2,000m distance, which every other rower had to adjust to entering the post-Rio 2016 season.
The official announcement from World Rowing earlier this year was not a surprise for Skarstein.
“I don’t think that it was a big deal to change to the new distance,” she said. “We’ve known for a couple of years that this was probably coming, and have done tests with 2km and trained with that knowledge in the back of my head over the past seasons.
“I have a high amount of training hours a year anyways, and just needed to train some tactics and disposal of the race to get used to going for twice as long. Finding that limit between burning yourself out too early and passing the finish line totally worn out demands a little experience, so the racings and testing have been important this year.”
Skarstein, in fact, is no stranger to pushing longer distances.
Before the 2017 rowing season began, Skarstein won two medals at the 2017 World Para Nordic Skiing Championships in February; bronze in the women’s middle distance sitting and silver in the long distance sitting.
“I definitely think that the endurance training I do cross-country skiing helps me in rowing season,” Skarstein said.
After closing her rowing season, Skarstein took only a few days off before switching to her mono-ski and prepare to qualify for her second straight Paralympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.
There, she hopes to land her first Paralympic medal, especially after just missing out on one at Rio 2016.
“This season in rowing has been really cool,” Skarstein said. “We [the Norwegian national team] worked hard and built on the work from the past years preparing for Rio. It was a great feeling to make it work together with my team, who also has had a really good season.”
The World Para Nordic Skiing World Cup will open on 9 December in Canmore, Canada, where 281 athletes from 18 countries will compete.