Name: Birgit Skarstein
Age: 27
Location: Oslo
Sports: Rowing
Achievements: Silver medal at the World Championships in 2013 , gold medal at the World Championships in 2014 , bronze medal in World Cup 2013 , silver medal in World Cup 2015, bronze medal in World Cup 2015 , silver medal in World Cup 2016, winner of the Norwegian Cup in cross country in 2014 , 8th in the sprint cross country .
Goals in Rio: Take a medal, betting against gold
When I succeed in my sport, I feel: Achievement , gratitude and freedom.



The toughest of all times


People think it's cozy with the Paralympics, but the truth is that it is raw and brutal. Just very hard, as in the Olympics. We train as elite athletes and dedicate our lives to this, says Birgit Skarstein.

She has just completed another training session on Årungen rowing stadium in Ås. From a motorboat the trainer Bastien Gallet give his instructions: tiny technique adjustments to ensure maximum speed and stability through the water. He believes Birgit has the chance to reach to the top in Rio if everything works out perfectly. Silver in World Cup in Polish Poznan in June gives good promises. But the main character takes nothing for granted.

- I hope I will manage to get out my potential. It's almost more important to me that I will manage to do the best that I can, than it is for me to win. But one thing is certain: this is the all-time toughest competition for me.


Grateful for the community

This summer Birgit beat the world record. But after the boat passed the finish line, it was not with a triumphant yess feel.

- No, I swore and hit the oar in the dock. There where a few technical things I could have done better, she says and laughs.

She realizes that although it is possible to reach high goals through hard work, there is also much that happens by accident and timing when it comes to competitions.

- It's close. Only hundredths of a second separates the contestants in rowing. In addition to a thorough and meticulous work over time, you need everything to work perfectly at that specific moment. Still, I know that I can do a very good job without getting a reward in terms of medals.

When she succeeds, Birgit Skarstein gets lots of emotions. One of them is gratitude.

- We work so hard to achieve the goals we set ourselves. I feel gratitude when i reach them, and an appreciation for the team and all who work for the same goal, she says.


The only thing we don't do together

Birgit participated in cross-country skiing in Sochi. She expects that Rio will be much bigger:

- A Summer Paralympics is over twice as big as a Winter Paralympics, she notes.

Most preferably, she would have seen that disabled and non disabled people could compete together also in the Olympics.

- It feels weird that all of my team mates goes to Rio a month before me. We train and compete together constantly. This is the only thing we dont't do together.






What do you feel now ?
What's the answer to that, really?
Pleasure. The fierce, unspeakable
joy that it's so hard
to put into words without getting
flickering and embarrassed.
It could have been like an intoxication,
if it were not for the intense
in the moment.
An element of triumph, to be at the top
of the podium. No one is going there without a
almost animalistic competitive instinct.
But really, it's hardly about
medals and metal.
It's bigger. And deeper.
It's personal.
It's about being able to toggle
in hundreds of training hours into the
proper performance. In due time, just
when the price is at it's highest .
Hit the plank, rein the horse.
Tame the wind, endure the pain.
When it matters most .




Thank you for looking at the pictures and reading about these amazing athletes.
This project has been a collaboration between Handikapnytt, Dagbladet Magasinet and myself.
Thanks to everyone who has helped us to accomplish this.


Photo: Erik Norrud
Text: Ivar Kvistum (translation: Google ;-) and Erik Norrud)
Make-up/Styling: Sara Schultz/Pudderagency, Kristina Pilar Neo, Tatjana Weddegjerde
Photoassistants: Alberto Palladino, Håkon Eltvik, Oktawian Gornik.


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