Winning the 500
A hundred years ago today, at the Frogner international races, Oscar Mathisen had hoped for improved ice and weather conditions on the 2nd day. He hoped in vain. The ice had deteriorated rather than improved, and especially in the outer lane of the Nortern Curve, it had deteriorated so much that it was declared unusable (and that took some in those days). Thus the 500m was skated with single starts to avoid the unusable patch.
Oscar walked around waiting for his turn. This one-by-one procedure was lengthy, and he found himself getting bored and annoyed in the unpleasant weather. He witnessed a bunch of skaters doing their sprints in 51 to 55 seconds. Then Røhne made a fine race to finish in 48,6. Next to skate was Sigurd, Oscar’s brother, nearly as well: 48,8. Vikander then equalled Sigurd and Öholm equalled Røhne. Wiklund was close behind, too: 49,2. And then it was Oscar’s turn.
He had been reading newspapers and magazines the last three weeks full of news about himself. What a baffling situation for a working lad of 19! But the thing that nagged him most of all was the fact that the news often weren’t at all accurate. At first he was only singularly happy to find his name in the papers. Only later he started feeling pangs of discomfort as he realised the things they wrote about him weren’t always true.
Especially it bothered him that all the so-called experts seemed to agree that he wasn’t cut out for the 500 m. Vikander and his brother both had skated the world record time 44,4 in Davos, where he only managed 45,8. Now these two were equal again, at 48,8. Furthermore, Oscar had been beaten a fortnight ago, by the world record holder himself.
Now he was standing on the line, full of energy and will-power. He had a thing or two to show these experts. In full concentration he skated the distance alone, almost as a single movement through the shlosh and the puddles of water. 48.3 seconds later he crossed the finishing line as the winner of his first senior 500 m. He had done his utmost, and to be sure, the cold and wet spectators did their utmost to reward him.
Results: sum of place numbers: 1 Oscar Mathisen 48,3 2 2 Rudolf Røhne 48,6 2 Moje Öholm 48,6 5 4 Sigurd Mathisen 48,8 7.5 4 Johan Vikander 48,8 9.5 6 Antti Wiklund 49,2 7 7 Otto Monsen 51,2 7 Christian Andersen 51,2 9 Harald Monsen 51,5 15 10 Carsten Carlsen 51,7 11 Magnus Johansen 52,4 12 12 Franz Schilling 52,6 19 13 Thorleif Torgersen 53,6 17 14 Anders Bjørndal 54,4 20 15 Sverre Andersen 55,2 16 Konrad Andresen 56,0 18Oscar, the World Champion, was in a safe lead, as it appeared. But Öholm, the European Champion, also had stated a point.
The Swede went on to state further points when he met Vikander in the 1500m. The Finn had beaten him in Davos, by the smallest possible difference. Now Öholm got even in a close and well-fought duel, well applauded by the audience, winning by 1 second: 2.45,8 and 2.46,8.
Oscar had drawn the last pair with Røhne, and Öholm and Vikander still were in the lead when he started. Only Wiklund had come anywhere close with his 2.48,0.
But the gods had been stung by the youngster’s display of hubris during his 500 m, and their wrath was aroused. The snows grew from annoying to integrally wicked, aggregating in big clumps, throwing themselves into the faces of the skaters, whirling and whipping from freak winds that suddenly rose out of nowhere. The young world champion, still with an inseparable conviction of his status as the bearer of his young nation’s pride, took the challenge, fought his way through the drifts and the gale, defied the gods. Røhne, a top class skater, soon was far behind. Oscar, knowing well his strength and his already famous stamina, pulled himself inch by inch through the fury of the weather, thinking himself up to it, hoping for some abatement. But the gale would not cease, and slowly it drained his forces. His habitual speed and power still were discernible when he finally reached the finish, but not as vivid as usual. And as it turned out, his time was not sufficient: 2.51,0. Røhne was blown all the way back to 3.08,0.
Yes, it was a bitter disappointment. He never would have foreseen defeat in his world record distance, to which he already had developed a strong emotional affinity. Still he’d much fancy seeing any one of the people above him on the list below skating alongside him in that race, and how long they could follow.
1.Mauritz Öholm 2.45,8 2.Johan Vikander 2.46,8 3.Antti Wiklund 2.48,0 4.Oscar Mathisen 2.51,0 5.Magnus Johansen 2.53,3 6.Thorleif Torgersen 2.53,8 7.Otto Monsen 2.54,6 8.Sigurd Mathisen 2.55,2 9.Sverre Andersen 2.57,4 10.Franz Schilling 2.59,4 11.Rudolf Røhne 3.08,0 12.Konrad Andresen 3.15,0f
When Oscar, tired and downcast, was on his way to the changing-room to rid himself of his skates and his wet tricot, someone turned to him with a message from the king, who wished to see him. Along with his wife, the queen Maud, King Haakon had stood by throughout the stormy proceedings and now wished a closer look at this extraordinary subject of his.
Oscar was awed, but not overawed, in the presence of these exalted persons, and pleasantly surprised by the openness and freshness of the king and his friendly and sympathetic attitude. They talked about Davos and the King offered his sympathies for the undeserved loss in the recently concluded 1500m. Oscar left the audience greatly uplifted, though slightly trembling. Where would this end?
The overall results presented a slight problem:
1.Mauritz Öholm 6 1.Oscar Mathisen 6 3.Antti Wiklund 10 4.Johan Vikander 11.5 5.Sigurd Mathisen 15.5 6.Magnus Johansen 16 7.Thorleif Torgersen 22 8.Franz Schilling 24 8.Konrad Andresen 24
But this was resolved elegantly and to everybody’s satisfaction by giving the first prize to everybody’s favourite Oscar Mathisen.
Öholm’s thoughts are not recorded.