Oscar Mathisen
Speedskating - Oscar Diary


A hundred years ago today, the Finns started their national championship in Helsingfors with a 5000 m, won by Antti Wiklund in 9.26,8 followed by Strömstén 9.31,4, Wathén 9.36,6 and Vanhala 9.38,6. The times were given in 5ths, so perhaps it's more correct to write them 9.264/5, 9.312/5, 9.363/5 og 9.383/5.

Night had fallen, as they do so easily in these northern latitudes this time of year, when the train left Østbanestasjonen on the first leg of the long journey that was to bring Oscar Mathisen and his two team-mates to Klagenfurt. The waving of beloved hands were soon lost in the gloom as the train choo-chooed noisily away, and the travellers closed their window for the smoke and settled on the wooden benches. A sleeping compartment would have been nice, but it was out of the question with the resources they had.

Sigurd was the most experienced traveller of the trio. He had visited Finland thrice, Sweden twice and once even as far as Russia to represent his country in skating. But despite his juniority in age, Oscar was one up over Martin who never had represented abroad before, due to his trip to Helsingfors last year. Still, this journey was special to all of them. Imagine, Austria, Switzerland, and the famed Davos! For every sleeper crossed they were getting nearer to the heart of European civilisation.

They came to the Swedish border and customs officers entered the train, asking for passports, scrutinising their luggage. Then the train chooed on and they chatted a while to the steely noises of the train wheels grating on the rails. The night was moonless and dark. Only briefly did they get glimpses of distant Swedish phantom-like lights now and then, swiftly gliding behind.

Eventually they grew tired, and Sæterhaug stretched out on his bench. Sigurd motioned his brother down on the floor, and Oscar complied without a grudge. After all, age entailed privileges. He took the compartment’s spittoon and stuffed it with a couple of newspapers for stability in order to use it as a headrest. Ungently rocking, the train clattered on into the night and the hopeful skaters found some sleep.