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Saturday, June 15, 2024

Ski jumping champ ‘too heavy for OL’

Maren Lundby has confirmed that she won’t be able to defend her gold medal in ski jumping from the last Winter Olympics (called ‘OL’ in Norway). She’s put on weight and refuses to submit to the kind of dieting required before the next Olympics in Beijing.

Maren Lundby, shown here with former Prime Minister Erna Solberg at the World Championships in 2019, has won both gold there and at the Olympics, but won’t be competing this winter. PHOTO: Statsministerens kontor/Eirin Larsen

“There are extreme demands to various things in ski jumping, and weight is one of them,” the 27-year-old Lundby told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) earlier this month, when she first disclosed her weight problem. Faced with a choice of crash-dieting or not competing this season, she opted for the latter, but also has since confirmed she’ll start training for the Olympics in 2026 instead.

“It’s very tough,” said Lundby, who also became world champion in ski jumping on the big hill just last winter. “I think I’ve made a good decision, though, and I did it to take care of myself and not take any shortcuts. I know that I’ve always been very good at doing things well, and I intend to continue with that.”

Her decision grabbed headlines in Norway and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. “All parents should listen to Lundby’s message here,” wrote Daniel Røed-Johansen, a sports commentator in newspaper Aftenposten. He praised her decision not to lose weight in an irresponsible manner: “That’s a decision that commands respect.”

He claimed that top-level athletics “are not healthy. Too often the limits are stretched to the max and beyond. Many athletes struggle with after-effects when their career is over. “It’s therefore refreshing that such a high-profile athlete puts her health first,” Røed-Johansen wrote, adding that Lundby’s choice “is not a sign of weakness On the contrary, it took a lot of courage.”

Dancing debate
There have been a string of stories in recent years about top athletes, especially women, struggling with eating disorders, depression, exhaustion and becoming seriously ill. Norwegian researcher and professor, Jorunn Sundgot-Borgen, has estimated that around 30 percent of athletes in sports that demand lots of endurance suffer from eating disorders. Health authorities have received warnings that problems increased during the pandemic.

Lundby has opted to listen to her body. She’s also liberated herself to live as she sees fit, not just how coaches and trainers do. She added to her national fame in Norway by taking part in the televised dance competition Skal vi danse? (Shall we dance?) on TV2 this fall. That raised some eyebrows and sparked criticism from cross-country skier Emil Iversen, who called it “unprofessional.”  He also claimed that serious professional skiers like himself “would never have time for it,” and that his coaches wouldn’t allow it. Others speculated whether she was cutting back on her ski jumping.

She later revealed that her decisi0n to take part in Skal vi danse? in high-heels, instead of being out training in ski boots, was “an attempt to find some answers that could take me to OL.” She called it “comical that others would express opinions about it without knowing what my situation was. I’ve been incredibly professional in everything I’ve done.” Lundby wondered whether Iversen perhaps envied her but could also rightly claim that “I’m the only one who knows what’s demanded in order to be best in the world in ski jumping.” Iversen later apologized.

Lundby said she’ll continue to dance and carry on her battle for equality for women in ski-flying competition. She’s already been a champion for women in ski jumping. Reidar Sollie, sports editor at newspaper Dagsavisen, commented that she won’t win gold in Beijing, but now she’ll be “healthy and ready to live a natural life.” And she’s won freedom to follow her own instincts. Berglund



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