Road to Lausanne 2020: Norwegian curlers inspired by Lillehammer 2016
Speaking to Grunde Buraas and Lukas Høstmælingen as they prepare to compete at the Winter Youth Olympic Games (YOG) Lausanne 2020.
It is almost four years since Grunde Buraas and Lukas Høstmælingen were spellbound spectators at the Winter YOG Lillehammer 2016. Having been inspired by the young athletes they cheered for during those Games, the Norwegian teenagers dedicated themselves to curling in the hope of one day following in their footsteps.
Now, the Lillehammer locals are both about to realise that dream as they prepare to represent Norway on the curling rink at Lausanne 2020. Here, they share their journey with us…
Q. Congratulations on being selected to represent Norway at the Winter YOG. How excited are you about competing in Lausanne?
Grunde Buraas: Thank you. I have been thinking about this moment for five or six years now. I remember a few years before the Youth Olympic Games were in Lillehammer, there was a tour through the town with the Olympic flag. That's when I first heard about the YOG, and since then it has been a big target for both me and Lukas.
Lukas Høstmælingen: Yes, ever since the Youth Olympic Games in Lillehammer, I've been wanting to get to Lausanne. It's been like a dream.
Q. What are your memories of Lillehammer 2016 and how much of an impact did the YOG have on you?
LH: I was there pretty much every day!
GB: Yes, same for me. We didn’t go to school much during the Games! I was mostly watching curling, but I also went to see the hockey final, some cross-country skiing and the mixed relay in the biathlon.
LH: I felt like all the athletes were super professional, so I really looked up to them.
GB: Yeah, and also seeing them kind of made me realise that it was possible to reach that level, and go to these types of events, or further.
Q. How important has it been for you to be able to use the Lillehammer curling venue for training?
GB: Before the YOG, there was no curling hall in Lillehammer. So it was built for the YOG and finished in 2012, I think. Neither of us would ever have started curling at all if it weren't for the YOG, and having the hall there. Now, we train there pretty much every day, and we believe it's the best facility for curling in Norway. Without it, we wouldn’t be going to the YOG ourselves.
Q. What will it mean to you to represent your country at the YOG?
LH: Well, it's pretty amazing, and pretty cool. I’ve been able to go around telling my friends that I'm representing my country in the Youth Olympic Games, which is really amazing.
GB: Yeah, it's been a dream for a long time. And just being able to go there with all the other athletes who are competing in different sports as well, with the rest of Team Norway; it's really cool.
Q. What has been the reaction from your friends and family to the news?
LH: Many of my family members have been very excited and very nervous for me, but many of my friends didn't know I had a chance of being selected. When they found out, they were like, "Oh, so you're actually that good?" My dad was super proud as well, I think he almost cried.
GB: Yeah, sort of the same for me. A lot of surprised people, but I also got lots of congratulations, and it's been so great. The first thing my parents did was book a hotel in Lausanne, so I think they were really excited.
Q. What are you both most looking forward to about the YOG?
LH: I’m looking forward to getting to the Games, seeing how everything is and how it all comes together. And I'm very excited to see the curling venue, and hopefully do the best I possibly can.
GB: I am looking forward to meeting teams from nations we've never met before and seeing the level of play. And also taking part in all the things around the Games, with the Learn & Share Programme and things like that.
Q. What do you hope to learn in Lausanne?
GB: It will be really good to play on the ice during the Games, because it will be really kind of special – better ice than usual, top-class ice like in the World Championships. And experiencing playing in such a big venue, with so many people from so many nations – just getting the opportunity to have that experience, where we are just playing curling for a couple of weeks, with that being everything you focus on. Competing in the Olympic Winter Games is the top, top goal for me to aspire to, so I think it'll be a really great experience to be playing in an Olympic event like this, and living in the Athletes’ Village.
LH: I feel like everybody has that dream; I really, really want to go to the Olympic Winter Games later in my life, so I think it will help me to see how it's done, how to play at that level and what it’s like competing at an event like that.
Q. Two-time Olympic curling gold medallist John Morris will be in Lausanne as an Athlete Role Model. Are you hoping to speak with him and ask for advice?
LH: Yeah, of course. He's a really good player, and I've seen him play a lot of times, so that would be exciting.
GB: Yeah, he also has a lot of Olympic experience and he won the first gold in mixed doubles as well, so it would be great to learn from him and talk to him about what to do. It's really great to have that opportunity, I think. He knows how it's done, and I have a lot to learn.
Q. What are your targets for the YOG competition?
LH: I want to do as well as possible and hopefully finish in the top three.
GB: Yeah, there's no point in going if you don't go for a medal, I think.