‘I’m shitting on this. I do not bother to do this here. “
This is how the Bergen man thought about the sport he had grown up with. Suddenly, partying and rowing seemed more tempting than lap times and tight jerseys.
– It was a bit quiet on the results front and I have always been a guy who likes a little speed and excitement and that kind of thing. And when my teenage years came, and I did not get much development, there were a few other environments that tempted me more. So then I did some stupid things, the skater admits.
Attached, drank and smoked
The 28-year-old has had a very special trip to top sports, compared to most people, but the beginning was still quite traditional. Young Henriksen played football, athletics and ice skating in primary school, and like many children, he dreamed of becoming really good.
In the early teens, however, some of the joy of sports disappeared. Then it was a completely different environment that seemed more alluring.
– I drank a lot, smoked, sniffed. My form was so bad that it was completely sick. And my lungs probably did not look, Henriksen describes.
“Boring and unrewarding”
The skater’s lifestyle meant that he dropped out of pretty much all of sports already in middle school. His parents made him show up for an occasional skating practice, but that was all. And he himself most wanted to give in to it too. Henriksen rather sought excitement in completely different places than on the ice.
In the last six months, NRK has mapped how today’s Norwegian elite athletes have reached the top. When asked how the athletes characterized the training when they were 16 years old, an overwhelming majority answered “competitive”, “fun” and “exciting and challenging”.
Henriksen is the only one who has ticked the option «boring and not very rewarding».
Today, he is still overjoyed that his parents did not let him quit completely, but he also believes that the pressure from home made him want to live out his rebellious side.
– It was so much hassle, so instead of wanting to do it more, I rather wanted to do the opposite and just irritate them and everyone else even more, the Bergen man explains.
Had to “change lives”
The years of going astray became important for Henriksen. He needed to find out if the grass was greener on the other side. And he needed to find a motivation that came from within. Only then was he set on quitting the job that was actually required for him to be as good as he dreamed of as a child.
The Olympic champion was approaching 17 years old when it dawned on him that it was not too late to turn around. He got the belief that he could still be among the best in the world, and he decided to give it a wholehearted attempt. Henriksen was triggered by the idea of disproving everyone who could not imagine the young rebel as a top athlete.
– I did not want to end up doing stupid things and just live life and those kind of things there, he recalls.
Henriksen describes it as “changing lives”. Suddenly he felt like skating. He realized that he had the same, long legs as the role model Sven Kramer, and he wanted to follow in the Dutchman’s footsteps.
– I just cut out all the friends I had from the time who did something completely different. Just set me up that now I want to chase the world top and that dream there, he explains with great empathy.
The 28-year-old’s change of direction was to prove fruitful. In a few years, he made strong leaps in the world rankings, impressed with ever-increasing achievements, and in 2018, eight years after the turnaround operation, he became Olympic champion at team pace in Pyeongchang.
Now he wants to show that it is possible to achieve his dreams in sports, even if you end up a little outside and do some stupid things along the way.
– To be completely honest, there are very few who have gone my way, and who meated away adolescence on just a lot of nonsense.
– It is possible, but maybe not something to recommend. You have to find your own way, he adds.
Became addicted to competing
Henriksen’s national team mate Allan Dahl Johansson did just that: He found his own way. And there was never any risk that their paths would meet.
Dahl Johansson’s training childhood was of the serious kind. He bet early. He set high goals, and he asked his father to push him to training. As a result, he took great strides and began to assert himself in competitions.
– I became a little dependent on it, to compete with those in the club, then on a national basis and then be able to compete against those from the Netherlands. I was actually bitten by the bacillus at the age of 11. I was completely hooked, the Oslo man remembers.
He also played football for a while, in addition to cycling for a long time. He really wanted to be a cyclist, but eventually it was skating he had the greatest progress in. Already as a 12-year-old Dahl Johansson participated in something called Viking Race in Heerenveen. It is referred to as an unofficial European Youth Championship, but the young Norwegian’s international debut did not go as he had hoped.
It triggered him to train even harder.
Asked to be pressured
The following year he went to Heerenveen and the Viking Race again. Then he became number three, before the following year he could climb another notch higher on the podium. Then he asked his father to push him so hard that he could be good enough to win.
– I told my dad that I want to be so good, I need help with that. So he has been pushing me in training. If I rode the bike at home, I could stay seated with low frequency, and then he pushed me, kept me going, says the 22-year-old, who points out that all the pressure has been desired by himself.
– I wanted to win, so I wanted to be pressured to do so.
The young talent would do anything to reach the top. He knew that he would never give up, and that if he just kept going and going, the competitors would not be able to stand it any longer. This is how he envisioned that he could fulfill his dreams with pure tenacity and will.
During junior high school, Dahl Johansson therefore increased both training amounts and ambitions, and in the same period he also set himself a long-term goal that he is still working towards: to walk 5000 meters in less than six minutes.
No one has managed that. Ever.
Could not have been friends
The 22-year-old’s hard work and courage has yielded results, even though he is still barely half a minute away from reaching the goal on the patch over the bed. During this year’s NM, he ran away with four medals, including gold in the 1500 meters. The achievements were rewarded with the King’s Cup. Nor did national teammate Sindre Henriksen return home empty-handed from the Viking ship. The result was bronze in the 1500-meter and silver in the 5000-meter.
Now the two sit on their respective exercise bikes and talk about how so totally different journeys could lead them to the same destination. They are good friends and teammates. They push each other, make each other better, meat and enjoy themselves. They have even lived together. Still, they doubt that they could have been in the same circle of friends when they were both in their teens.
– I do not think I wanted to be so much with you. I had lost focus, says Dahl Johansson clearly.
– It had not worked. It was probably a little too junk. You can not be an athlete in the environment I was in, so to speak, Henriksen answers, before adding:
– And Allan was an athlete when he was young.
The two skaters are one of many proofs that there is no final decision on how to become an elite athlete. NRK’s survey of 137 sports profiles’ training childhood gives the following conclusion: There are as many paths to the top as there are top athletes.
But is there one correct will you
– I think at one point that we were on the exact opposite path. But I think in the end we have in common that we have that dream from within, that we want to be the best. That is what has brought us both up here, Henriksen concludes.
- Want to know more about the findings of the survey? Here you can apply yourself:
- These are the cases that have been published about the path to top sports: