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SPECIAL STORIES

Canadians hail Norwegian coach's sportsmanship

February 20, 2006
Aftenposten, News from Norway

Bjørnar Håkensmoen was on the scene when Canadian cross-country skier Sara Renner's left pole broke during the sprint relay final. He immediately gave her his, and that enabled Renner and team mate Beckie Scott to ultimately claim the relay's silver medal.

Håkensmoen claims he simply reacted like any good sport should, telling the newspaper Toronto Sun that Norwegian policy calls for handing over poles or skis in time of need.

"We talked about it at our team meeting the night before," he told the Toronto paper. "We are a country which believes in fair play."

Canadian media gave major play to Håkensmoen's good deed, with one, Québec's Le Journal de Montréal even publishing a huge "TAKK" (Norwegian for "thank you") on its front page. Another paper, The Gazette, suggested that every Canadian who meets a Norwegian in a bar, should buy him or her a beer, according to reader François Trudeau, a university professor in Quebec.

Trudeau is among dozens of grateful Canadians who have written to Aftenposten's English Web Desk. They're all keen to spread the word in Norway of Canada's gratitude, and many are amazed that a Norwegian coach would make such a gesture. Not least because his own skiers, favoured in the race, ended up in fourth place with no medals at all.

"Our new Olympic Hero is Bjornar Haakensmoen," wrote George Araujo of Port Dover, Ontario, calling him "a living testament to the true meaning of sport."

"There can be no better example of the Olympic ideal of sportsmanship than was demonstrated by Norwegian coach Bjornar Haakensmoen," echoed Bruce Norgren of Waterloo, Ontario.

"In a world gone mad... with even the simplest of misunderstandings leading to violence the world over, it's heartening to see that we can still be human," wrote Mark Rice of Toronto. "The selfless act of Bjornar Hakensmoen, the Norwegian cross-country ski boss, in handing a new ski pole to Canadian Sara Renner, during the heat of competition, without thought as to how the outcome might have affected his own team, stands alone in my mind as one of the brightest moments I can recall in this, or any other Olympics."

Geoff Snow of Waterford, Ontario summed up a sentiment in many of the letters sent to Aftenposten's English Web Desk: "In the eyes of Canadians, we took a silver medal, but Norway has won gold for sportsmanship."

Canadians applaud Norwegian for Olympic pole pass

February 19, 2006
CBC Sports

Canadians can't seem to do enough to thank a Norwegian coach for helping a Canadian cross-country skier at a critical moment.

Bjornar Haakensmoen has been showered with gifts and other tokens of appreciation since handing Sara Renner a pole after hers broke midway through the team sprint Tuesday at the Torino Games.

First, Canadian Olympic officials and cross-country athletes sent the coach thank-you notes.

Then, the Norwegian embassy in Ottawa started receiving dozens of appreciative phone calls.

Now, the Banff Springs Hotel is stepping up. Hotel spokesperson Laurie Grant says the Alberta hotel is offering the coach and his family a week's free stay.

"Sarah's a local athlete and this is just our way of showing appreciation," Grant said.

Renner, who won a silver medal with teammate Beckie Scott in Tuesday's event, is from Canmore, Atla.

Grant says hotel employees are working with their travel counterparts to see if someone will pick up the tab for the airfare.

Haakensmoen, who has also received wine, flowers, chocolate and telegrams from appreciative Canadians, said his gesture isn't a big story in Norway.




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