Meet Norway’s newest world champ

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Olav Lundanes comes from a family hooked on orienteering, and has spent years running through the woods in search of posts in record time. Now he’s made his family really proud, after winning the Orienteering World Championships in Lausanne, Switzerland this week.

Olav Lundanes with his latest gold medal, after winning the world championship in long-distance orienteering in Lausanne on Thursday. PHOTO: Norsk Orientering

The pure joy Lundanes showed upon winning the gold medal, all the intense hugging with his proud parents and others on the sidelines, was enough to bring tears to the eyes of Norwegians watching the national newscast on NRK Thursday. There was the 24-year-old from Halden who’d been told he could never win major orienteering titles outside the Nordic countries, exhausted but grinning from ear to ear, and with lots of Norwegian flags flying.

“It’s often been said that I couldn’t win gold on continental terrain, because I’m not fast enough at running,” Lundanes told newspaper Aftenposten. He has excelled on the marshy Nordic forest floors that can slow down foreign rivals. He also won the world championship in long-distance orienteering in Trondheim two years ago, with lots of trøndermyr (the marsh of Trøndelag) under his feet. “That’s what I grew up with,” he said, comparing it to his childhood home at Eikenos, east of Ålesund on Norway’s west coast.

He felt there was “a general attitude in Orienterings Norway” that his speed was too slow to win on a harder surface. He proved it wasn’t. He finished a full two minutes and 52 seconds ahead of his nearest rival, the home-turf favourite Matthias Merz of Switzerland.

Lundanes said he’d been training on gravel roads to boost his speed, and he also built up endurance through “many runs on the lighted ski trails” around Halden last winter. He called Thursday’s victory “my greatest performance ever,” claiming it started out “heavily” but lightened up along the way.

He ended up securing Norway’s first gold medal on Swiss soil for 31 years, and maintained Norway’s record of winning medals at every orienteering world championship that’s been arranged. He celebrated with ice cream after the event, along with a stream of congratulatory messages from officials back home.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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