Skating in Norway - Michael Chrolenko


by Magdalena Osborne
Photos © EMJO

When mentioning Norway, skating isn’t the first sport that comes to mind. But young hopeful Michael Chrolenko could be on his way to change that. He placed second among the junior men at Nordics in 2004, and he has collected three national junior titles. This season he wants to capture the senior crown.
This easy to get along with, funny and charming 18 year old has no problem taking a break from his practice so we can talk. There’s a sparkle in his eyes reflecting his enthusiasm when he talks about skating and what he loves about the sport.

Michael: “I like to travel to different places and meet new people, and compete… it’s all great! And when you work on a program and all the different elements come together – wonderful feeling!”
Something that immediately stands out is the way he speaks; besides a slip or two in Norwegian, his Swedish is perfect.

Michael: “Ha ha, you think so? Well, I’ve spent a lot of time training in Sweden and I know many Swedes. But we speak Polish at home; my mom and dad are both from Poland.”
And they were both athletes too, his mother was a gymnast and his dad sparked Michael’s interest in skating at an early age.
Michael: “Well, my dad is a coach and I went with him to the rink, so I guess you can say I was born on the ice!”

Yes, one could say that. And dad is Marek Chrolenko who skated in Poland and has an impressive track record of his own. He started in singles but switched to pairs and placed seventh at Europeans in Helsinki in 1977. Now he coaches at the club in Trondheim, Norway, where both Michael and his younger sister Nicole are students.
“I have worked as a coach at that club for a good many years. Nicole’s a novice and she loves skating and wants to train and compete, but skating is not her life like it is for Michael. But right now I don’t have a lot of students since much of my time and energy goes to Michael, he’s the best student we’ve had in a very long time. Of course there have been others, but we have no tradition of good male skaters in Norway.”

So it’s about time they get one. The question is if enough is being done to support skating.
Marek: “Actually, there’s quite a bit done to promote the sport. And Michael was part of the ISU development program for young Scandinavian skaters. The project ran for three years with skaters like Kiira Korpi, Lina Johansson and Adrian Schultheiss. It gave Michael the opportunity to train with Swedish coaches. We still go to Sweden to get inspired and because their rinks have ice longer than we do in the spring. There’s a rink in Oslo that stays open, but it caters to all the clubs in the area so there isn’t much room for us.”

Michael: “I think the sport’s (lack of) popularity may have something to do with population. Norway is a small country and skiing is so big, everything else is considered of lesser importance. The little kids play soccer until they start skiing.”

With hardly any competition Michael is pretty much in a league of his own and he finds training in Sweden uplifting.
Michael: “In Sweden the skaters are much more advanced and there aren’t so many people on the ice, maybe just seven or so. And even the little kids are pretty good. If I train with the little ones in Norway I don’t have a chance for a good practice.”
Good practice was certainly something he found during the recent summer camps in Germany and Switzerland.

Michael: “Yeah, I was at the Ice-Dome in Oberstdorf, and later in Flims with Viktor Kudriavtsev. Both camps were excellent, both the on and off ice training. I trained so much and I trained hard, we had ice during the summer! My dad didn’t practice with me in Flims, which was good; we need a break from each other sometimes. But training for my dad is fine; really, I mean he’s not dad on the ice. Besides, he’s always been my coach so it’s all I know!”
“Well, I probably treat my kids a bit differently... I’ve coached the Norwegian team and I’m possibly harder on my own kids. It’s not easy to coach them, but it works out fairly well. But them going to Flims without me during the summer, Michael has been there the last four years now, is good for all of us.”

After the summer camps Michael is ready to face the new season.
Michael: “I kept my programs from last year. In the long I skate to ”The Pirates of the Caribbean”. It’s a constant struggle to find just the right music. I like classical stuff transformed to trance, but it’s very hard to come by. As far as the jumps, well, the triple Axel is coming along; I’ve been working on it all summer. I know I need this jump and I’m trying hard to master it. Now I just want to keep away from injuries so I can concentrate on my training and have a good season.”

His last season wasn’t bad either, he was allowed to go to the Swedish nationals and compete with the senior men there.
Marek: “It was a boost for him to train and compete with those guys. It’s hard to train alone so much; having others around who are better than you helps you stretch your limits! When you’re alone it’s hard to stay motivated.”

The competition also served as Michael’s qualifier for Europeans, and he passed!
Michael: ”Lyon was great and I didn’t do so badly considering. But the skaters at Europeans are really good and I missed a few things in the short program so I didn’t get to skate my long, but I was pretty close! Just to compete there was a treat; I got to skate with the big guys I’d only watched on TV before. And I shared the ice with Plushenko during the practice sessions. He was very nice, not stuck up at all, he made room for me.”

Michael is certainly on the up and up, but Marek is a bit concerned about the future and how much longer his coaching will suffice.
Marek: “For another year or two, until Michael’s done with school, we should be ok. But after that we’ll have to evaluate the situation. Maybe he’ll need to move, maybe he’ll want to, we have to see what kind of progress he makes”

But although Marek has high hopes for his son, he also recognizes the fact that there’s life beyond skating.
Marek: ”Michael takes the sport seriously and works very hard, but school is also important to him. He understands that an education is for life where skating isn’t, and so far he has managed to combine the two. He’s in a 4-year program for athletes who want to apply themselves to their studies. The first year was very tough, the second he had a little more time for skating.”
”Besides the sport part, I study math, physics and other advanced stuff. In case I’d get seriously injured and unable to stay in the sport I’ll have an education to fall back on. School is for real and someday I’ll have a good job and make lots of money.”

With a sharp mind like that, who would doubt it? He’s a hard worker indeed and between school and skating there isn’t a lot of free time, but when he finds some he can easily fill it.
Michael: “I participate in a few other sports like cycling and soccer. And I like to go out with my friends, or sit by the computer.”
He’s a man of both work and fun and he has a pretty heavy goal.
Michael: “I’d really like to make it to the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. But the competition will be fierce and I may even have a problem making the Norwegian Olympic team since there are so many medal contenders in other sports. I’ll work hard for it though! Long term, well… Right now I have no coaching plans for the future, but you never know!”
Our conversation is over and he packs up his things to go back on the ice. It was a pleasure getting to know this promising, young Norwegian, but the last request became one too many, that to describe himself.
Michael: “Oh no, please, I can’t! I’ve never even thought about what that would be…”
Well, this reporter can think of few things, like “fighter”, “dedicated” and “future heartthrob”, but enough said that Michael’s someone to keep a close eye on from now on.



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