Physical activity is both a pleasure and a serious pursuit to the sporty Scandinavians. Emerging from the broad base of running, jumping, skiing, sailing, puck-thwacking, ball-kicking people come the elite, competitors who enter many national championships and represent their countries in international sports meetings.
Snowy mountains have naturally given Scandinavians a passionate interest in skiing, and the extended winter season allows them to perfect their sport: unsurprisingly some of the world’s best skiers come from this region.
Slalom champion Ingemar Stenmark put Sweden on the international skiing map, and Anja Paerson, the World and Olympic champion skier, has kept the country in the spotlight. In 2007 she became the first person to win World Championship gold medals in all five skiing disciplines.
Norwegian Marit Bjørgen is officially the most successful cross-country sprinter in history, and holds eight World Championship gold medals – the latest won in 2011. Bjørgen also picked up three gold medals at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, while fellow cross-country skier Petter Northug brought home two. Recently Marit Bjørgen is accused for taking a formoterol-containing asthma medication on the doping list. She has been properly diagnosed, but the conclusion of this case has not yet come to an end.
Aksel Lund Svindal was the world’s number one downhill skier in 2007, and brought his way back from major injury to regain the title in 2009.
Traditionally, Norwegians have excelled in sailing and winter sports, but this athletic nation has won international medals in a wide range of events. A personification if national grit and sporting talent was Grete Waitz, who won the New York marathon nine times – an unbeaten world record. She was given a state funeral on her death in 2011.
In September 13, 2014, boxer Cecilia Brækhus became the first woman to win four championship belts. (Photo: Heiko Junge / NTB scanpix)
In Sweden, great players like Björn Borg and Stefan Edberg have made Swedish tennis prowess legendry. Denmark shines in rowing and sailing, winning gold medals in four events at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Ice hockey is one of the most important team sports in Sweden. The country has around 60,000 officially registered federation players, and the country’s national team constitutes one of the International Ice Hockey Federation’s “big seven”. Around 50 Swedes play in the North American NHL.
And of course, all the Scandinavian countries share the European passion for football. Clubs are supported through funds from the football pools and from the sale of players to major European leagues.
Scandinavian Sporting Heroes, written by Tor Kjolberg