Skier Johaug won on running

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UPDATED: Norway’s cross-country skiing champion Therese Johaug has now become a track star as well. She proved her strength and sheer stamina at the so-called “Impossible Games” at Bislett Stadium in Oslo Thursday evening, qualifying for the World Championships by running 10,000 meters in 31 minutes and 49.6 seconds. Several other Norwegian athletes set records in other distances, too.

Skier Therese Johaug, shown here at a promotional event for the maritime rescue service Redningsselskapet, has turned to additional summer pursuits as a runner to help stay in shape for the skiing season. She may set a new record while running 10,000 meters at this year’s unusual exhibition version of the Bislett Games. PHOTO: Redningsselskapet

A lack of snow around Oslo and Europe last winter, followed by the Corona crisis that’s restricted travel and slashed budgets, has forced athletes and organizers of sporting events to think differently. Johaug took on long-distance running as a means of staying in shape, and was among the mostly Norwegian track stars taking part in a highly unusual version of Norway’s annual Bislett Games in Oslo on Thursday.

They were-named “The Impossible Games” this year, an exhibition event drawing together as many athletes as possible from Norway and neighbouring Sweden while still complying with Corona containment measures. Johaug was among them, after setting new goals for herself in a 10,000-meter event that raised questions about which sport will now be her priority. The 32-year-old Johaug claimed it was still skiing, “but I think it’s fun to run some races in running shoes, too. I’m starting to get old, and need new inspiration.”

She was originally due to run in the 10,000-meter race at the European Championships in Paris this summer, after winning the event at the Norwegian Championships last year and thus qualifying with a time of 32 minutes, 20.86 seconds. Corona has cancelled all that, though, so Bislett organizers invited her to run the 10,000 meters, albeit alone, at the legendary Bislett Stadium in the heart of the Norwegian capital.

Newspaper Dagsavisen reported how she was running against the clock if not competitors. Her debut at Bislett created lots of headlines, and left track and field stars like Norway’s Ingebrigtsen brothers and hurdlers Karsten Warholm and Amalie Iuel sharing the spotlight with Johaug. They were all smiles during a recent press briefing, where Johaug admitted she doesn’t feel like a track and field athlete. She does think her “winner instinct”  will set in, though, and her endurance shown while regularly winning 30-kilometer ski races clearly helps her along.

Warholm and Jakob Ingebrigtsen won, too
Warholm, meanwhile, ran the 300-meter hurdles event inside the venerable Bislett Stadium where grandstands were empty Thursday night. He nonetheless put on a powerful presentation, too, setting a new world record of sorts with a time of 33.79 seconds. NRK reported that was 0.69-of-a-second faster than Chris Rawlinson’s world record time of 34.48 seconds. Iuel ran the same distance ending just behind Sara Slott Petersen of Denmark, who won with a time of 39.42 seconds.

Jakob Ingebrigtsen ended up running to a new European record in a 2,000-meter race, with a time of four minutes, 50.01 seconds. He also beat his own two brothers Filip and Henrik, along with Narve Gilje Nordås, all of whom ran in the exhibition event to give Jakob Ingebrigtsen some competition.

None of those competing were able to enjoy Bislett’s traditional atmosphere of enthusiastic Norwegian fans cheering in a packed stadium. Organizers, however, arranged for taped versions of the so-called Bislettbrøl (Bislett roar) to prod on the athletes over stadium loudspeakers. The event was also broadcast live nationwide on NRK.

NewsInEnglish.no/Nina Berglund