Maren Lundby, from the small town of Kolbu in Norway’s rural district of Toten, made her debut on the national women’s ski-jumpng team when she was 13 years old. Ten years and lots of downturns later she finally achieved her goal: A gold medal in the Winter Olympics.
“It’s been the great goal and the great dream,” Lundby told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) Monday night after the dream came true in South Korea. “It’s been many years (nearly half her lifetime) since I first thought I should be an Olympic champion.”
She lived in the shadow of Norway’s legendary Anette Sagen, though, who was the pioneer who got the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to finally take women’s ski jumping seriously and allow women to compete on the same terms as men. Lundby had talent, according to ski jumping experts, but lacked stable results.
Even in PyeongChang Lundby fell during a training run and had to be cleared by doctors before she could compete. “It’s been a long road,” Lundby told NRK, “with many upturns and downturns. But I’ve learned that’s what makes it so fun when you finally stand at the top of the sport.
“If you haven’t been down in the gutter at times, you don’t know how it feels. It feels incredibly good now.”
In 2016 Lundby secured her first World Cup victory. That was the beginning of a wonderful winning streak, with 11 World Cup victories since the first one in Russia. She won an impressive six World Cup victories in a row this season after another downturn last year, when she was favoured for gold at the World Championships but ended fourth.
This year she’s been more confident about winning.”The fact that she now has this important brick in place (her Olympic gold medal) is so important in ski jumping,” said Johan Remen Evensen, a former ski jumper himself who now works as an expert commentator for NRK. Her new mental strength was put the test when she fell during training on Sunday, only to return as Olympic champion on Monday.
Former champ Anette Sagen, meanwhile, was thrilled on Lundby’s behalf. The gold medal also confirmed Sagen’s relentless campaign for women to win in ski jumping.
“To win Olympic gold is so much greater than anything I won,” Sagen, who has since educated herself as a nurse, told NRK. “‘I’m almost speechless, and that doesn’t happen very often. I hope they really have a big celebration for her in South Korea.”