I have always been involved and committed in sport – as an athlete, coach, volunteer, researcher, communicator and spectator. My educational background is a master degree in Political Science and Physical Education and I have five chapters of my work life with different perspectives of sport. I have extensive theoretical knowledge and many practical experiences about the value of sport. My knowledge and experiences are obtained from youth education, higher education and research institutions, and the daily life of Danish and international elite sport.
For more than three decades I have worked with top athletes, coaches, high performance managers and researchers. In addition, I have worked with many municipalities, clubs, federations and organizations as well as some of Denmark’s largest private companies. Finally, I have many experiences as chairman and member of boards, voluntary organizations, federations, associations and public institutions. Today I have a number of collaborators whom I appreciate and which I solve different types of tasks for and along with. Because – Life is not a sport for spectators!
February 3, 2021
Next week, over half a million Norwegians will follow the live TV broadcasts from the IBU World Championships 2021 in biathlon, which will be held in Pokljuka in Slovenien. This is not least due to the fact that both the female and male biathletes from Norway have been very dominated in this season’s World Cups, where there have been 21 victories in 40 races, i.e. the Norwegian biathletes have won more than half of the World Cup races. The Norwegian biathletes’ performance is completely unique in a sport which – in addition to Norway – is dominated by European countries such as France, Sweden, Germany, Russia, Italy, Austria and Belarus.
Biathlon is one of the most popular winter sports
Biathlon is a fascinating and extremely demanding sport, which consists of the ski discipline cross-country skiing and precision shooting with a rifle. The combination of many different skills of biathletes – endurance, speed, strategy, precision and concentration – has meant that biathlon, especially in recent years, has developed into one of the most popular winter sports. World Cups like in Oberhof and Ruhpolding in Germany, Hochfilzen in Austria, Anholz in Italy and Holmenkollen in Norway today attract more than 40,000 spectators – in addition to millions of TV viewers from around the world. Biathlon is on the Olympic program with a total of 11 disciplines: 5 for each gender (sprint, pursuit, mass start, individual and relay) and one mix relay with two biathletes of each gender. All disciplines are characterized by the biathletes running several laps over a certain distance – typically between 7.5 km and 20 km – and several times along the track the biathletes fire 5 shots at 50 meters, either in a lying or standing position. The diameter of the disc is 45 millimeters for lying shooting and 115 millimeters for standing shooting.
Johannes Thingnes Boe – on the way to legend status after Bjoerndalen and Fourcarde
Johannes Thingnes Boe, who was born and raised in Stryn in Western Norway as the youngest of a sibling group of five, already showed as a junior a unique talent as a biathlete. Boe won 3 gold medals at the World Championship for juniors in 2012 and already the following season he won his first World Cup victory, qualified for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi and achieved a impressing 3’rd place in the overall World Cup. Subsequently, the 27-year-old Norwegian has been one of the world’s best biathletes with 3 Olympic medals, 20 World Championship medals and no less than 52 World Cup victories. However, it was not until the 2018-2019 season that the sympathetic Norwegian managed to win the overall World Cup ahead of the French legend – Martin Fourcarde, who won the World Cup 7 seasons in a row. However, for the past two seasons Johannes Thingnes Boe has been by far the most winning biathlete and especially his 6 World Championship medals – 3 gold and 3 silver – at last year’s World Championship in Antholz were of a historic performance.
The four best biathletes in the overall World Cup are Norwegians
Also this season, Johannes Thingnes Boe is the favorite to win the overall World Cup and most World Championship medals, but he is strongly challenged by three other Norwegians: Big brother 32-year-old Tarjei Boe, Johannes Dale and not least the season’s biggest surprise: Sturla Holm Laegreid. The 23-year-old Laegreid has already in his first international season won no less than 4 individual races and in addition achieved 3 podium places, which currently. gives a 2’nd place in the overall World Cup. At first glance, it is difficult to find biathletes from other nations who can seriously threaten the four Norwegians, who after 15 of the season’s 26 individual races are placed in the top four places in the overall World Cup. I believe that the duel for the overall World Cup will only be decided between Boe and Laegreid in the last race of the season: Sunday 21 March 2021 at Holmenkollen in Oslo. In my opinion, the sovereign Norwegian biathletes can in the battle for World Championship medals be challenged by the two Frenchmen – Quentin Fillon Mailet and Emilie Jacquelin – Arnd Peiffer from Germany, the two Swedes – Sebastian Samuelsen and Martin Ponsiluoma – and the Russian Alexander Loginov, who has previously been banned for 2 years due to doping, and the veteran Jakov Fak, who has advantage of home at the World Championship.
Marte Olsbu Røiseland – “Champion of Champions 2020”
Marte Olsbu Røiseland, who comes from Arendal in the southern part of Norway, has, like Johannes Thingnes Boe, seriously in the last three seasons marked herself as the world’s best female biathlete. Olsbu Røiseland already made her debut in the World Cup back in the season 2012-2013, but for several seasons she had a very hard time achieving top 10 places, both at the World Cup and the World Championships. At the IBU World Championship 2020, however, 30-year-old Olsbu Røiseland became a major international breakthrough. She became the first biathlete ever to win 7 World Championship medals – 5 gold and 2 bronze – out of 7 possible. A fantastic performance, which led to the selection of Olsbu Røiseland as the world’s best female athlete in 2020 – “Champion of Champions” – by the French sports magazine “L ‘Equipe”.
Olsbu Røiseland, Eckhof or Oeberg win the overall World Cup
Olsbu Røiseland has won a total of 2 Olympic medals, 12 World Championship medals and 8 World Cup victories. And now all indications are that for the first time in her career she has good chances of winning the overall World Cup. Among Olsbu Røiseland’s worst competitors for both the World Championship medals and the overall World Cup is her friend and training partner Tiril Eckhof, who is currently occupies 2’nd place in the overall World Cup – only 8 points behind Olsbu Røiseland. Also Hanne Oeberg from Sweden, who is currently occupying 3’rd place in the overall World Cup – only one point behind Eckhof – is a serious threat for Olsbu Røiseland, both in the World Cup and for the World Championship medals. Also among the women, I believe that the winner of the World Cup will only be found between Olsbu Røiseland, Eckhof and Øberg in the last race of the season – Sunday 21 March 2021 – at Holmenkollen in Oslo. Candidates for next week’s World Championship medals include Dorthea Wierer from Italy, Lisa Theresa Hauser from Austria, Franziska Preuss from Germany and Julia Simon from France. In particular, Simon and Hauser showed impressive form at the recent World Cup in Antholz.
IBU World Championship 2021 as a benchmark for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games
The upcoming World Championship will also give signals about the individual biathletes and nations’ potential at next year’s Winter Olympic Games, which will take place in Beijing in the period February 4 – 20, 2022. There is no doubt that the most medal candidates for the world’s strongest winter sports nation – Norway – must be found in biathlon. World-class athletes such as Johannes and Tarjei Boe, Dale and Laegreid in the men competitions as well as Olsbu Røiseland, Eckhof and Tandrevold in the women competitions will be exponents of a large number of Olympic medals and in my opinion also significantly more than the 6 Olympic medals – of which “only” one of gold – which Norway won at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang.
You can find relevant information about biathlon on the following websites:
January 5, 2021
A research project on the mental health and well-being of Danish elite athletes, which has just been published in the scientific journal “Psychology of Sport & Exercise” (No. 52 – 2021) shows that Danish elite athletes have the same mental health and well-being as the population as a whole. The research project also shows that there are marked differences in the mental health and well-being of female and male elite athletes in the 18 different sports that are included in the project. The research project, which has been prepared by Associate Professor Andreas Küttel, cand.scient. Andreas K. Petersen and Associate Professor Carsten Hvid Larsen from the Department of Sport Sciences and Biomechanics at the University of Southern Denmark and financially supported by Team Denmark, contain new knowledge that can – and should – contribute to a more nuanced debate on the subject.
Elite sports are not black or white – but with many colors
In recent years – both nationally and internationally – there has been an increasing focus on elite athletes’ mental health and well-being – or rather lack well-being. Personal stories in the media about eating disorders, performance anxiety, depression, dissatisfaction, unethical behavior and sexual abuse among coaches and managers have seriously shown the “shadow sides” of elite sports. And by the way, the positive gains of elite sports for the athletes in the form of increased self-confidence and stronger self-esteem, courage, will and mental toughness have been dragged into the background. Several international research projects have indicated that increasing demands and increased pressure from the environment on the individual athlete can have detrimental effects on the athletes’ mental health and well-being. This development has also led international organizations such as the International Society of Sport Psychology (ISSP), the European Federation of Sport Psychology (FEPSAC) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to launch a number of initiatives that can further focus on the topic.
First Danish research project on the mental health and well-being of elite athletes
The aim of the Danish research project is to investigate mental health and well-being among Danish elite athletes, including the prevalence of anxiety and depressive symptoms in male and female elite athletes. In addition, the aim is also to identify both mental risk factors (eg injuries, overtraining, stress, deselection and lack of sleep) and promoting factors (eg social support from family and friends, well-functioning training environments and certain personality traits of the individual athlete) in relation to his or her mental health and well-being, both in and outside of elite sports.
Athletes from individual sports and team sports with different mental health profiles
The research project’s respondents are 612 Danish elite athletes from 18 different sports who have answered an anonymous online version of the “Holistic Athlete Mental Health Survey”. The elite athletes represent both individual sports (including athletics, badminton, cycling, swimming, triathlon and tennis) and team sports (including basketball, football, handball, ice hockey and volleyball). The athletes were on average 19 years old and practice their elite sport at the national or international level. Based on the responses, the elite athletes were divided into three categories: “Strong mental health profile”, “Moderate mental health profile” and “Weak mental health profile”. Subsequently, differences and similarities between elite athletes in the three categories were analyzed based on a Kruskal-Wallis test.
Danish elite athletes have the same mental health profile as elite athletes in other countries
The results of the research project show that the vast majority of Danish elite athletes – 75% or 3 out of 4 – experience either average or high well-being in everyday life. This proportion is slightly higher than the Danish population in the same age group. Relatively few athletes – 14% – indicated that they had experienced moderate (10%) or severe symptoms (4%) of anxiety within the past two weeks, while 80% – or 4 out of 5 – stated that within the last two weeks two weeks had experienced moderate or no symptoms of depression. 11% of the athletes stated that they had experienced symptoms of both anxiety and depression within the past two weeks. The incidence of severe symptoms of anxiety and depression in Danish elite athletes is at the same level as among the same age group in the population. Likewise, the incidence of symptoms of anxiety and depression among Danish elite athletes is at the same level as among elite athletes in other countries, e.g. Sweden, Australia, Switzerland, Germany and the United Kingdom.
Significant gender differences
Among the research project’s most exciting results is that female elite athletes have a significantly higher incidence of symptoms of anxiety (20% vs. 10%) and depression (28% vs. 18%) than male elite athletes. In addition, female elite athletes also had a significantly lower overall score on mental well-being than male athletes. These marked gender differences are also found outside the world of elite sports, where the proportion of Danish teenage girls with symptoms of anxiety and depression, e.g. at high schools, has been markedly increasing in recent years. Unfortunately, the researchers do not state specific reasons for these gender differences. In turn, the researchers emphasize that there were no differences between athletes in individual sports and team sports. And that examples of dissatisfaction, anxiety and depression occur in all sports and in age groups.
The vast majority of elite athletes thrive really well in elite sports
The research project also shows that 64% – or almost 2/3 – can be categorized as elite athletes with a “strong mental health profile”, 30% of the elite athletes have a “moderate mental health profile” and only a modest minority – 6% – can be categorized as athletes with a “weak mental health profile”. Elite athletes with a “strong mental health profile” experience good social support, both in private life and in elite sports. Athletes with high well-being and absence of symptoms of mental disorders rate their sports environment to be more supportive in terms of self-determination, involvement, priorities, and choices in and outside of elite sports. Athletes with a “weak mental health” show a high degree of dissatisfaction, sleep less and experience far more stressful elements both in private life, in education and in elite sports. And many of these athletes will probably sooner or later opt out of a continued life as the elite athlete. Of course, it is important to focus on these athletes and not least the challenges and dilemmas that these athletes face in training and competitions. But there is also a great risk that coaches and sports managers in clubs and federations can spend (too) many resources on athletes, who basically do not “fit” into the selective and exclusive structure of elite sports. The researchers from SDU do not go so far with their conclusion, but instead point out that there is a need for individual and flexible solutions for the individual elite athlete.
All sports have independent characteristics and special challenges
Unfortunately, the article presenting the research project does not contain an analysis of the athletes’ mental health and well-being in the individual sports. In my opinion, there is no doubt that training culture, environment, scope and content, social relationships between athletes and between coaches and athletes, division of roles and responsibilities and much, much more are very different across individual sports and team sports. For that reason, coaches, sports managers and athletes – both in the researchers’s and in my opinion – should also be extremely careful about setting up “standard solutions” across sports. Among the researchers’ recommendations for clubs and federations, one thing in particular is clear and precise: Young talents must be dressed very well with knowledge and experience from current and former elite athletes and coaches in order to handle pressure, demands and expectations that undeniably come with a life as elite athlete.
The article: “To Flourish or Languish, that is the question: Exploring the mental health profiles of Danish elite athletes” (Psychology of Sport & Exercise, No. 52 – 2021) can be requested by contacting Associated Professor Andreas Küttel (mail: email@example.com).
December 20, 2020
The Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 has affected every person’s behavior and everyday life, both locally, nationally and globally. For several weeks and months, girls and boys have had training, matches and competitions in football, swimming and gymnastics canceled. And international sporting events, such as the 2020 Olympic Games and the 2020 European Championships in football, have been postponed until next summer. In addition, a large number of World Cups, Olympic Games qualifiers, European and World Championships that were supposed to have been held over the last ten months have been canceled and most will never be completed. For that reason, it also makes no sense to compare the Danish sports results in 2020 with previous years. On the other hand, it makes good sense to look forward to the very large number of international sporting events, which – hopefully, but still very uncertain – will be held in the new year.
Continued uncertainty over the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games 202(1) in Tokyo
Olympic Games (OG) and Paralympic Games (PG) are for athletes, both in Denmark and internationally, a very special event – not least because of the OG’s and PG’s enormous media coverage and the personal, collective and national prestige that is associated with winning the OG or PG medals. As early as the end of March 2020, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Government of Japan decided to postpone the 2020 Olympic Games to the period July 23 – August 8, 2021 and the 2020 Paralymic Games to the period August 24 – September 5, 2021. The IOC – and not least many Olympic federations, which have the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games as the overriding source of income – will go “incredibly far” in relation to global public health, to conduct the OG and the PL in the summer of 2021. Cancellation of the OG and the PG will result in the loss of giant television revenues and sharply declining revenues from commercial partners, which will throw all Olympic sports – except football – into an existential, economic crisis. Postponement of the OG and the PL has already resulted in an extra costs of DKK 12 billion for Japan as a nation and Tokyo as a city. The extra costs will be used in particular for a large number of measures to prevent the spread of infection during the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games. In addition, the support of the Japanese people for the OG and the PL has been markedly declining in recent months. The latest poll from the news media Kyodo News shows that over 70% of the Japanese population is in favor of a further postponement or a complete cancellation of the games. Most – and not least “sports fanatics” – can now “only” hope that an approved vaccine can create greater and better safety for all – athletes, coaches, leaders and spectators – when people from more than 200 countries gather to compete for Olympic and Paralympic honors.
Denmark has qualified OG athletes and teams in many sports
This year’s cancellations of the World Championships in i.a. badminton, wrestling, kayaking and rowing as well as the cancellations of the European Championships in i.a. athletics and swimming make it very difficult to assess the Danish medal chances in Tokyo. Overall, it can be stated that Denmark currently has qualified athletes and teams for the Olympic Games in 12 different sports: Athletics, table tennis, archery, wrestling, cycling (track and road), handball (men), kayaking, horseback riding (dressage, military and jumping), rowing, sailing, shooting and swimming. In addition, Denmark has very good chances of qualifying athletes in badminton and golf based on world ranking positions, so the number of sports probably lands close to 15, which was the number of Danish sports at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
Track cycling has the most and biggest Olympic medal chances
In my opinion, the biggest Danish Olympic medal favorites must be found in track cycling, where the Danish riders at the World Championships in February achieved impressive results. This year’s by far the best Danish sports performance is the World Championship and a new world record with a time of 3.44.672 in 4 km team pursuit. Lasse Norman Hansen, Julius Johansen, Frederik Rodenberg and Rasmus Pedersen won ahead of New Zealand and Italy, whereas proud track cycling nations such as Australia and Great Britain disappointed terribly. These two nations have traditionally fought for Olympic and World Cup gold for a number of years. And they will definitely try to challenge Denmark in the battle for the Olympic gold medals in Tokyo. I also believe in the Olympic medal for the two experienced track riders – Lasse Norman Hansen and Michael Mørkøv – in madison. Both have previously won Olympic medals and in February 2020 they became supreme world champions. It will also be really exciting to follow both Julie Leth and Amalie Dideriksen in madison and Amalie Dideriksen in omnium at the upcoming Olympic Games. Recent years’ World Championships and World Cup results have shown that – also among the female track riders – there is medal potential.
Cycling is clearly the sport in Denmark that has shown the best results and the greatest sporting progress in the last 3-4 years. Danish riders have also achieved great results in 2020, both in classic races such as the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a Espana as well as one-day classic races such as Gent-Welvelgen, which this year was won by ex-world champion Mads Pedersen. The impressive international level among Danish riders was also confirmed at the 2020 World Championships in September, which was held in Italy. It did not become World Championships medals, but 4 top 8 places in 4 different Olympic disciplines: Jakob Fuglsang was No. 5 in line race, Kasper Asgren was No. 6 in time trial, Cecilie Uttrup was No. 8 in line race and Emma Norsgaard was No. 7 in time trial. For that reason, road riders must also be credited with good medal chances when it gets off the road in and outside Tokyo.
Sailing is traditionally a strong Danish Olympic sport
I also believe in Olympic medals in sailing – one of the classic Danish Olympic sports. Over the years, Danish sailors have won as many as 30 Olympic medals, including 12 of gold. The 2020 World Championships in Olympic disciplines such as 49’s, 49’s FX, Nacra and Laser Radial, which was held in Australia just before the outbreak of the pandemic, unfortunately did not yield any World Championship medals, but all 4 top 8 places: Anne-Marie Rindom was No. 4 in Laser Radial, Jonas Warrer and Jacob Precht became No. 7 in 49’s, Anne-Julie Schütt and Iben Nielsby became No. 6 in 49’s FX, while Lin Cenholt and Christian Peter Lübeck became No. 8 in Nacra. In my opinion, Anne-Marie Rindum in Laser Radial has the greatest Olympic medal potential in Tokyo. Rindom has won 2 World Championships and 2 WC bronze medals within the last 5 years and at the 2016 Olympic Games she won a bronze medal. I also think that Cenholt and Lübeck have good chances of winning a (surprising) Olympic medal in Tokyo.
Rowing and badminton also have Olympic medal candidates
Among good Danish sporting results in 2020 should also be mentioned Sverri E. Nielsen’s European Championship in rowing, not least because two of the strong Faroese’s probably worst competitors for the upcoming Olympic Games – Kjetil Borch from Norway and Oliver Zeidler from Germany – were clearly defeated in a nicely disposed finale. Viktor Axelsen’s All England victory in badminton, which was played immediately before the Covid-19 pandemic’s global lock-down, was also among the best Danish sports results in 2020.
The men’s national team handball delivered the most disappointing result
The most disappointing sporting performance of the year was, in my opinion, the Danish men’s national team handball at the European Championships at the beginning of 2020. It is extremely rare for a reigning Olympic champion and world champion to leave the European Championships after the group game. But a one-goal defeat to Iceland and a draw against Hungary meant an early return trip for an otherwise very victorious and medal-winning Danish national team. It will be exciting to follow the men’s national team’s performance, both at the World Championship in Egypt in a few weeks and not least at the Olympic Games, where the titles will be defended. I will not be surprised if it turns out to be both a World Championship and an Olympic medal – perhaps not of gold – but the quality and especially the variaty of top players on the Danish men’s national team is completely unique in recent years. The same quality and variaty is not found on the women’s national team handball, although the European Championships at home count contained several uplifting elements and good play leading up to a very disappointing performance against the tournament’s surprise Croatia in the battle for bronze medals.
The men’s national football team is going to two “exams” in the coming year
The Danish men’s national football team is facing two very exciting “exams” in 2021: the European Championship finals in 2020 with three home matches in the “Parken”: Finland (June 12), Belgium (June 17) and Russia (June 21). Based on the individual nations’ rankings on FIFA’s world rankings, Belgium (No. 1) and Denmark (No. 12) are favorites to advance from the group stage, but also in the world of football, big surprises happen from time to time. For me, it will also be a big surprise – or more precisely a big disappointment – if Denmark does not succeed in 2021 in qualifying for the 2022 World Championship in football, which will be held in the oil state of Qatar. Opponents in WC qualifiers – Austria (No. 23), Scotland (No. 48), Israel (No. 87), the Faroe Islands (No. 107) and Moldova (No. 177) – are all placed significantly lower on FIFA’s world rankings than Denmark (No. 12).
Finally, I would like to wish everyone – athletes, coaches, leaders and spectators – in Danish and international elite sports – a Merry Christmas and a very busy New sports Year.