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“It felt totally crazy”, says 21-year-old Ragne Wiklund.
Whenever anyone asks her about it, she doesn’t know what to say, because it was completely indescribable. Not just for her, but for the whole team. It isn’t just her memory: it is one she shares with her team mates and the whole support team.
For a long time, her goal had been to win gold at a world championship, and on 14 February that dream came true in the Netherlands. Wearing Lerøy’s logo just above her heart, she skated her way to a gold medal in the 1500 metres, in a time of 1:54.61.
“It would be a bit sad if I had already achieved my goal in life, wouldn’t it? So I’m setting new goals, and of course there are always new championships coming up”, says Ragne.
As a world champion, she is one of Norway’s leading gold medal hopes for the Olympics, and her next goal is to get on the podium there. Ragne doesn’t worry much about the expectations and pressure, as she doesn’t see them as things that will really hit her until the time comes. And anyway, before that she has to qualify through the World Cup and by meeting the Norwegian team’s qualification requirements.
“I believe I can make it, but I’ll definitely have to work for it. Nothing is handed to you in this sport.”
Last year her best results in the World Cup were seventh places, so she knows she cannot take anything for granted. In addition, the run-up to this season hasn’t gone quite as planned.
A few weeks ago she broke both a collar bone and a rib during training. That meant she wasn’t allowed to train for one and a half weeks. At first she was in so much pain that she didn’t even think about training, but as the pain receded and she started to feel better, waiting became unbearable.
Training is a big part of her life, and normally it takes up several hours of her day, both in the morning and afternoon. Although it felt impossible to take a break from training, she is glad she chose to listen to her doctor. After slowly and steadily building up again, she’s now back to full fitness:
“But my pre-season preparations have definitely been less ideal than planned!” she adds.
In spite of the injuries and their after-effects, she has already been to a training camp and had her first race of the season, which she wouldn’t have believed possible when she injured herself just a few weeks earlier. Injuries are something that many elite athletes have to contend with, so she considers herself lucky to have avoided them for as long as she has.
A good diet
In parallel with Ragne reaching the top of her sport, her diet has become more important. In the past, she often ate tasty but unhealthy food.
“Now I put together a menu based on what training I’ll be doing that day. I still eat lots of the things I like, but I focus more on food in the context of what I’ll be doing that day.”
She makes sure she gets enough of the nutrients her body needs, and chooses foods that will help her to get the most out of her training.
“I love seafood, so I eat a lot of fish. Basically I eat quite a lot of Lerøy dinners!”
She finds it hard to say what her favourite food is.
“Tacos, stir-fries, anything with salmon in it, really. That is what’s so great about salmon – it works in so many things!”
Since seafood is an important part of her diet, she is very happy to wear the Lerøy logo.
“I feel that being sponsored by Lerøy is something that I and my team mates can really get behind. Seafood is healthy, it is good for people, and it is something that we want to be associated with”, she says.
Sometimes, being a professional athlete requires big sacrifices. Particularly her social life has had to take a back seat to the increasing amounts of training. In recent years she has had to become stricter, and now she more often says no to invitations.
She used to do everything, and somehow or other she managed to fit it all in. But doing two training sessions a day, attending lectures and going out for a meal with her girlfriends became exhausting, particularly as her training started to occupy more and more of her life.
“I have become better at saying no to things that I don’t have the energy for, even if I don’t like doing it.”
Once in a while she prioritises her social life over her studies, but nothing takes precedence over her training. It always comes first.
“And I really miss not being able to live a normal student life. I would have liked to move to another town to study, and to have been a real student. But that will have to be another life”, she says.
Alongside her sporting career, Ragne is doing a BA in Energy and Environmental Physics at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences at Ås. So far it has gone really well, largely thanks to the extensive use of online learning on account of the Covid-19 pandemic.
This autumn it may be harder for her to keep up with her studies. Norwegian society is opening up, and many universities are opting for face-to-face learning. In theory, it should be possible for her to complete her degree next year.
“What do I need a BA for while I’m still a speed skater? I’ve got plenty of time, and I’ll get my degree by the time I’ve finished skating, but I don’t need to complete it before that”, she says.
Another thing she wishes she had is a good social circle of female skaters. When she looks at the young girls at her skating club now, she hopes they will stay together as a group. That is something she has missed. When she first started skating and throughout primary school there was a gang of girls who participated in the sport. But around the age of 10 or 11, that changed.
“After a while it became more about training, and less about play, so quite a few people dropped out.”
For Ragne that wasn’t a problem, because she still found it fun, so she continued. Over the years, more and more girls dropped out. Now she is the only one left. She thinks it is a shame that they didn’t manage to keep the group together.
“You take it a bit for granted, until suddenly there isn’t anyone else there.
She loves the atmosphere in the team, and there are plenty of male skaters, but she still misses what the younger girls have. A kind of sense of community. That’s why she is doing her best to make sure the girls hold onto that. She hopes she can be a role model for them, but at times she just feels like a young girl herself.