The Norwegian wheelchair curling team are targeting their first ever Paralympic medal, and they seem on track to do so at the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games.
After moving up to the A-Pool, Norway found themselves four months later battling for gold at the 2016 World Wheelchair Curling Championship in Lucerne, Switzerland.
Although settling for the silver medal in February’s Championship, team skip Rune Lorentsen has seen his team come a long way, especially thanks to the help of the national sports federation.
“The Curling Federation in Norway does everything for us; our training conditions are perfect, we can train as much as we like in a small club with sheets always free for us,” Lorentsen said.
Norway (world champions in 2007 and 2008) have proven to be a team reckoned with but have not been able to make it count on the Paralympic stage.
But with their national sports federation helping with logistics for planning tournaments and allotting more practice space to focus on improving their take outs and draws, Lorensten can see the improvements.
He also said Norway has been able to compete in more tournaments than previous years, as distance from other countries had played a factor. The talent pool is also becoming more competitive.
“In Norway overall we have only 12 to 15 players,” Lorentsen said. “I am lucky to have my vice skip Jostein Stordahl from practically the very beginning since 2006. I started playing in late 2004. Hopefully in the next few years we will double the number of players.”
The semi-final at the 2016 World Championships was a rematch of the Worlds B-Pool last November between Norway and South Korea. The Norwegians advanced to face Russia in the final match.
Despite falling 7-4 to the defending world champions, Norway has seemed to re-emerge to the top after their last world titles in 2007 and 2008, both when Lorentsen was team skip.
A former international table tennis player, Lorentsen said he switched to curling after being invited to a try-out in 2004 and immediately liked it. He still plays table tennis as a hobby, saying it is excellent training for coordination.
Having competed in every Paralympics since wheelchair curling was added to the programme at Torino 2006, Lorentsen is focused on that eluded gold medal.
“The medal is our main goal in PyeongChang 2018 since we don’t have a medal from Paralympics’ yet,” he said. “We will continue following the good work we have been doing for the last couple of years. An important part of being a team is to feel togetherness that is why it is crucial to spend free time out of sport arena together during preparations. This way we are learning how to make each other better. Key is never to give up and believing my decisions that I am doing the best for the team.”
PyeongChang 2018 will feature up to 670 athletes across six sports from 9-18 March.