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Norway’s Skating ‘Boys’ Reunite

June 8, 2000

SQUAW VALLEY, Calif. (AP) _ The picture must be important.

Seven men came all the way from Oslo, Norway, to have it taken.

In 1960, they called themselves ``the boys.″ They were among the best athletes in the history of their country, Norway’s speed skating team for the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley.

Hroar Elvenes, Alv Gjestvang, Fred Anton Maier, Nils Aaness, Roald Aas, Torstein Seiersten and Knut Johannesen.

In 1960, most were in their mid to late 20s. At Squaw Valley, they won two golds and one silver medal. Forty years later, its a new century and the teammates are grandfathers.

But they are still ``the boys.″ And, for the first time since 1960, they’ve returned to Squaw Valley.

The boys are spending this week in northern Nevada. On Wednesday at Squaw Valley, Calif., they posed for the picture in the spot at the base of the mountain where they posed for a team photograph 40 years ago.

``We have one important thing to do,″ said Elvenes, who competed in four Olympics. ``It’s to take this picture again.″

In 1960, there were six skaters standing in a row for the photo. This time, there were seven.

Maier, a member of the national team with the others, missed the Squaw Valley Olympics with a knee injury. He was one of Norway’s best speed skaters.

Maier finished his Olympic career with a gold medal, two silvers and a bronze won in 1964 and 1968, and was world champion in 1968.

Maier also made the boys late for their Squaw Valley reunion.

They wanted to come in May. But it was planting time on Maier’s small vegetable farm in Norway. The growing season is short, so everyone had to wait until Maier got in his Brussels sprouts.

As skaters, the boys finished with at least one medal in every Olympics from 1952 until 1968. But they were together as a team only once, at Squaw Valley.

Norway is a winter sports country. Skiers and skaters are national heroes, and Johannessen is one of the biggest.

Even now, people remember him and what he did at Squaw Valley _ win the 10,000 meters in 15 minutes, 46.6 seconds. It was a world record and the first time anyone had skated the distance in less than 16 minutes.

Although the record has been broken, Johannessen’s Squaw Valley time is an athletic landmark in Norway, sort of like Babe Ruth’s 60 home runs.

``In Norway, if you say 15:46.6 to someone on the street, they will say, `Knut Johannessen, Squaw Valley, 1960.‴

Along with the gold, Johannessen won a silver in the 5,000 meters at Squaw Valley. He won Olympic medals in 1956 and 1964. He was world champion twice, in 1957 and 1964. And he still speed skates.

``Not as far or as fast,″ Johannessen said with a laugh.

Squaw Valley was a great Olympics for Johannessen, but it might have been even better for Roald Aas.

He was supposed to win gold in 1952 at the Oslo Olympics. He was in front of the home crowd. He got a bronze.

Eight years later, at Squaw Valley, Aas got his gold in the 1,500 meters.

On Wednesday, Aas and Johannessen listened to a radio recording, in Norwegian, of their Squaw Valley triumphs. It was the first time the two had heard the broadcasts.

They cried.

Forty years after the victories, the boys are in pretty good shape. For the most part, they’re thin and still athletic. Johannessen weighs just 10 pounds more than he did as a competitive skater.

The boys have known each other most of their lives. They competed against each other as youngsters. They still live in and around Oslo and get together frequently.

But the trip to Squaw Valley was special. There were memories, especially of a picture that needed to be taken one more time.

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