Skiers mourn loss of former coach

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Cross-country skiers both in and outside of Norway were mourning the loss this weekend of Inge Bråten, the former coach of the men’s national ski team that performed so well at the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer in 1994.

Inge Bråten (left), shown here with skier Bjørn Dæhlie in 1992, died on Friday after a short illness. PHOTO: Norges Skiforbund/Scanpix

Bråten, age 63, died on Friday following a short illness. “I’m shocked,” former Olympic and world champion Vegard Ulvang told newspaper Dagbladet. “This came with no warning.”

Ulvang noted how Bråten “started Norway’s ‘golden age’ of skiing” and “had enormous success.” Norway’s national skiing federation Norges Skiforbund linked the cause of death to a sudden and aggressive form of cancer.

Fellow Olympic gold medalist Bjørn Dæhlie told VG Nett he wasn’t as shocked, because he know Bråten was seriously ill, but that it was “sad, very sad.” Dæhlie called Bråten an “inspiring coach for me” who managed “to make long, tough training rounds fun for a young boy.”

Bråten quit as national coach in 1994 and went on to work in television and as a sports commentator. He later went back to coaching with national teams in Sweden, Canada and Switzerland.

Newspaper Dagsavisen reported that Bråten sometimes was at odds with top Norwegian sports officials and worried often about tight budgets. Current and former leaders at the skiing federation had only praise for Bråten during the weekend, however. Johan Baumann, president when Bråten was national coach, said he “meant a lot” for the sport and rebuilt the team in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

“The Olympics in Lillehammer was probably the high point, even though Albertville in 1992 was even better from a sporting point of view,” said current chief Åge Skinstad. “Inge died much too young.”

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