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
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.