By Rokur Jakupsstovu, Swimming World Scandinavian correspondent
OSLO, Norway, October 9. Just 18 months after the death of Norwegian swimming star Alexander Dale Oen, elite swimming in Norway is at a standstill national head coach Petter Lovberg admitted to NRK.no recently.
"It's in the cards that we now have to start all over again," Lovberg said of the greatest challenge of his career.
Earlier this week, several local media outlets detailed the issue in that Norwegian's national team now consists of just one swimmer in the elite group, Cecilie Waage Johannesen. Recently, that group had grown to a handful of strong swimmers that included Ingvild Snildal, Aleksander Hetland, Sara Nordenstam and Dale Oen. That group captured more than 20 international medals for the country.
Lovberg, who has served as the national coach for 12 years, spoke candidly with NRK.no.
"No, we have to basically build a new national team," Lovberg said. "It will probably be the most challenging thing I've done as a coach, but that is also what makes it the most inspiring."
There is some hope for Norway as rising starts Sindri Thor Jacobsson and Sverre Naess are both back in the sport after some soul-searching breaks following Dale Oen's death.
"It just shows how vulnerable you can be," Lovberg said. "We have been fortunate to have four such good swimmers on our team. Now, all are more or less gone. The challenge is that when all disappear at about the same time. It will take time to build up new athletes to the same level."
The big hope for Norway now is that the legend and legacy of Dale Oen will live on to inspire the next level of age group swimmers as a guiding light for what can be accomplished as a Norwegian swimmer.
"For us, it is important to take that inspiration with us when we build further," Lovberg said. "Sooner or later, a new one will pop up who can be very good."