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McGrath's Notes from Norway, Entry Four: The Ugly


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December 11, 2002

After the “NIGHTMARE TRIP!” to the U.S., (as the Norwegian press had tabbed it) we returned home to Norway with our tails between our legs. This time there was no welcome home party and the press was nagging, looking for an angle as to what went wrong. They had turned on me. But worse, they had turned on Andrine. “I am used to this,” she told me. “It’s no big deal!”

After a few days of training in Hafjell, Norway, the team flew to Zurich, Switzerland, and drove to Val D’Isere while my two assistants made the usual 30 hour drive from Norway to France with the equipment van full of skis and training gear. After their journey, I met them with beer and a cognac to thank them for their trek.

Stina had been sick during our trip to the U.S. and returned sick to Val D’Isere. She is a great skier but relies on touch and feel in her skiing rather than brute strength. She needs all her power to get the job done. I could see right off that she was drained by the long trip from the States and the travel down to France. There was little snow in France and training opportunities were slim, so we had arrived only two days before the race. It was good to get back on the circuit and the women were ready to redeem themselves.

The race in Val D’Isere was a World Cup GS, which is Andrine and Stina’s best discipline. I was very concerned about Stina’s health and Andrine had not skied well in training. Therefore, I was sceptical about their chances. However, Andrine immediately put that to rest with an excellent first run putting her in third place. Stina skied poorly as I expected and looked very tired as she went out of the course near the end to give her another DNF. The second run had perfect conditions for Andrine and she was in a nice position for another podium finish. But she made a mistake early in the run, never recovered and finished well behind in 20th position.

“OH BOY! Now the sh- is going to hit the fan,” I thought. I worked my way to the finish to deal with the aftermath. The Norwegian press was raging along in typical fashion and followed us to the hotel for more dirt while we packed up and tried to escape to the next race in Sestriere, Italy. Finally we left the hotel, beaten and tired.

Throughout this slump, as I will call it, the athletes and coaches had maintained good relations with one another. Any experienced athlete or coach will tell you how important this is in the big picture. Going into “PANIC MODE” is not the remedy for anything, despite what the Norwegian press thought.

I felt it was important to address the issue of our slump and called another team meeting. Andrine was devastated because her expectations are so high as they should be and Stina was sick and was eventually sent home. The other members of the team, all SL skiers Hedda Berntsen, Line Viken, Trine Bakke Rognmo and Lisa Bremseth, had not really been