Saturday, March 12, 2016

IOF Athlete of February: Lars Hol Moholdt

Name: Lars Hol Moholdt
Country: Norway
Living place: Jyväskylä and Rindal
Club: Wing OK
Date of Birth: 25th March 1985
Discipline: Ski Orienteering
Career Highlights: WOC gold long 2015, WOC bronze relay 2011 and middle 2015, WOC, EOC gold sprint, middle and long, 2016, relay 2013, 2014 and 2015
IOF World Ranking: Second, after Stanimir Belomazhev from Bulgaria

Soon Lars Hol Moholdt will start working. Normal work. That’s what the three times European Champion usually does during this part of the year, in the beginning of March.

– When it felt tough physically at the start of the sprint at European Championship, I liked that. Since I knew my shape was very good, I understood that winning was really a possibility, Lars says.

The sprint was the first competition at European Championship in Austria in the start of March.

For years, Lars has been one of the best in world.

At the pre camp, at 1600 meter over sea level in Anterselva in Italy, the week before the championship in Austria, he felt strong. In Austria got proof that the feeling was true.

– I had the shape of my life.

Three races, three medals

It ended with a victory, 36 seconds before Russian Andrey Lamov, who took the second place at the sprint.

– I was a surprised that it was such big difference, Lars says.

The week continued to be surprising. He also won the middle and the long distance.

– I hadn’t expected results like this.

During the championships, there was a lot of heavy snowfall. About half meter fell during the night before the first race.

– I like soft conditions.

Have missed something

The soon to be 31-year-old Norwegian has been among the very best in the world for some years now, but in some ways he has missed the individual victories.

– I was asked after the victories in Austria if I shouldn’t go for a new sport and other challenges when I had won so much. But I haven’t got so many victories. During my years on top level I had only two big victories internationally before the races in Austria, he states.

The first one was a victory at a World Cup sprint race December 2013 in Finland, as well as at the WSOC long in Norway last winter.

– There’s still a lot to achieve.

Growing up with four sports

Lars grew up in Rindal, in the north western part of Norway. Rindal is a municipality with a bit more than 2000 inhabitants. Close to half of them live in the centre, where Lars grew up and started his life as a sportsman.

– My two older brothers did orienteering. An uncle brought them into the sport, so I started with orienteering because they did it. I also took part in cross country skiing, as well as some football and athletics, he says.

He was a talent in both orienteering and cross country skiing in young ages.

– It was a good place to grow up and perfect for doing sport within short distances. The ski tracks start just 300 meters away, and it is also great for running and roller skiing.

Moved to sports school

When Lars was 16 years old, he moved from home to live in a dorm in Trondheim, about 100 kilometres from home, where the World Orienteering Championships were held in 2010. He entered the school Heimdal, where talents train during school time and get close follow up. Lars studied at the cross country programme, and learnt a lot during the four years. Øyvind Skaanes, a former World Champion in cross country skiing, gave a lot of good advice. In orienteering, Lars joined the club Wing, which had a lot of good juniors and seniors.

– If I’d wanted to go for skiing only I would have maybe gone to Meråker, situated a bit further away, but I wanted to go for both orienteering and cross country skiing.

The start with ski-o

As a junior, Lars had great success both in cross country skiing and orienteering, with medals at Norwegian championships in both sports, gold in cross country and silver in orienteering. During his last year as a junior he also had a very good chance in the fight for a place on the Norwegian team for the Junior World Championships in cross country skiing, but he had problems with his back when the final races were held.

He didn’t qualify for the big goal for that winter, probably because of the problems with his back, but as a result of that he got some extra days without races and a team mate in Wing changed his sports life.

The start of the change came January 15-16, 2005. An older team mate in Wing, Øystein Kvaal Østerbø, brought him into Ski Orienteering. Østerbø wanted Moholdt to take part at the O-treff-competitions close to Lillehammer. Østerbø has been one of the very best sprinters in orienteering for more than ten years. In young senior age he was also going hard and doing well in Ski Orienteering, with gold at the ESOC relay in 2003.

19-year-old Moholdt managed better and better during the course the first day at O-treff.

– On the relay the second day it didn’t go so well, but I wanted to try the sport more. It was so exiting, with something happening all the time. The big difference in skiing technique, due to the big variation in tracks and difference skills needed, was also something that attracted me.

The 30-year-old is glad for the trip to O-treff. He found his sport.

– I have never for a second regretted my choice of Ski Orienteering.

During the first years in SkiO Lars made a few mistakes due to going at too high speed. Former top athlete and national head coach Tommy Olsen saw the potential and gave him chances.

– It has been important for my success that Olsen gave me trust and opportunities even without the best results.

Two places to live

Lars does a lot of travelling between Norway and Finland. In Finland he lives together with Tiia Tallia. They have been a couple since 2010. She also does Ski Orienteering on a high level, but has since last autumn she has being working full time as a teacher.

– Are you good at Finnish?

– I have got something and is getting better, but I am better at skiing than at speaking Finnish.

Tiia and Lars also live together in Norway, and they talk Norwegian together.

There are more competitions for Lars in Finland than in his home country.

– It’s good with much more races in Finland. I hope there can be more races in Norway in the future. Small local races are important to attract more people and get more people to take part. I also hope the sport will become more visible on an international level.

In Norway the terrain is much steeper than in Finland, for example like in his home town Rindal, and he still likes train in Norway.

– In Finland I have to be conscious if I want to train up hill, and it’s also good to have to be conscious on what to do.

Almost full time

Lars is well educated at NTNU in Trondheim. He is a civil engineer. He got his degree in 2013. He completed the five-year long in seven and half years. After he finished his education he has mostly been Ski Orienteering.

– I regard myself as a full time athlete, but in spring time I work full time for two to three months.

So in some weeks’ time he will start to work for one of his main sponsors in Norway.

– When other athletes go to warmer places in the spring, I go in to work, he laughs.

Secret of the success

Moholdt’s personal coach is Erlend Slokvik, who has been top three in World Cup in both orienteering and ski orienteering and has a long career in coaching, for example as head coach both in orienteering and biathlon.

– Lars is doing the same amount of training as more well-known winter sports athletes and he is so wholeheartedly and consciously striving to be even better, Slokvik says.

Year by year the Norwegian has raised his level.

Olympiatoppen, the organisation in charge for the work with Olympic sports in Norway, also supports Moholdt with money.

The first big win

February 12, 2015, was a day Lars had looked forward to for a long time. It was the day of the long distance race on home ground at the WSOC in Norway. The Norwegian had never got an international individual medal before that day, but he did a terrific race at Budor, only about 100 kilometres from where he started with Ski Orientering, and won the gold. The gold was also the 1000th gold won by Norwegian sports athletes and he got extra interest from both media and the heads of Norwegian sport.

All grown up

Moholdt and Øyvind Watterdal have been the only over 25 years olds in the Norwegian team during the last year. After the WSOC on home ground there were more athletes stopping their career, like Hans Jørgen Kvåle.

– Hans Jørgen and I trained so much together and I’ve got so much good feedback from him. So I have missed him and the others who stopped. On the other hand, is it also inspiring with the young ones.

The goals

Now he looks forward to WSOC in Krasnoyarsk next winter.

– There’s a lot I can do better.

– You still have the hunger after the last two big winters?

– Oh, yes. This winter I didn’t achieve my goal that was to win World Cup overall.

– So you have to carry on for more than just the coming winter since there’s no World Cup the coming winter?

– I enjoy the life. It’s the best I can do, but it’s maybe time for doing other things after coming winter, he says.

[Text Erik Borg; Photo Donatas Lazauskas. See the original article at Published with permission from the International Orienteering Federation]

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