Sunday, July 17, 2016

World Cup 2016: Spotlight on Norway

By Bex McLaughlin with further reporting by Jørgen Helgeland Stenløkk, Andy Marmer, and Kai Haugen Shaw 


Rumpeldunk, as quidditch is known in Norwegian, was brought to Norway by students at Norges teknisk-naturvitenskapelige universitet (Norwegian University of Science and Technology) in the summer of 2012 after a group heard about the sport’s popularity in the United States and started playing. Since the inception of NTNUI Rumpeldunk in Trondheim, a total of 10 teams have cropped up around the country, mostly centered around the capital of Oslo, but also with a sole and somewhat isolated team out west in Bergen.

Currently, teams are mainly high school and university-based, with a few community teams in the mix. Since 2013, a national championship has been held in Oslo every year. The first year saw a surprise win from Lambertseter VGS, who took first and second place with their two participating teams. Since then, the title has been held by OSI Vikings (formally UIO Quidditch) in 2015 and NTNUI Rumpeldunk in 2014 and 2016

Internationally, the team will be one of the more experienced squads in attendance. For the national team’s debut at the 2015 European Games (EG), the squad ended in third place after beating Belgium out of snitch range. NTNUI has competed in the past three European Quidditch Cups (EQC), finishing as high as eighth place in 2015. OSI Vikings traveled to the last two tournaments, placing strongly with its highest finish at eighth place in 2015, meeting the eventual champions Paris Titans in the quarterfinals. The country’s premier merc team, the Norwegian Ridgebacks, have competed in Catalonia, France, and Turkey. They came second in Intergalaktik Cup in Adana, Turkey in January 2016, losing the final in overtime to hosts METU Unicorns, who came joint fourth at EQC 2016

Where the previous national Norwegian team had a glut of exchange students in their ranks, this year’s squad is much heavier on Norwegian talent. It has been traditionally hard for quidditch to take off in Norway amidst the challenges of a freezing climate, more popular snow-based and indoor sports taking precedent, and the challenges of convincing insular Norwegians to come out and try something completely different especially when that activity involves getting tackled into snow. With many prominent players coming from a handball background, Norwegian quidditch is characterized by an emphasis on quick movement and passing, more so than many other countries. With not much current quidditch activity in Sweden, Denmark, or Finland, the Norwegian side is the premier team of Scandinavia, whatever their result at World Cup

The Squad
The 19-strong Norwegian squad was chosen by a committee of selectors appointed by Norges Rumpeldunkforbund (NRF, or Norwegian Quidditch Association) board, with picks later on subject to approval by the NRF board; players were able to express their interest in being scouted for the national squad, though the committee was not limited to these individuals. 

Norway boasts a four-person coaching set up headed by NTNUI coach Amund Kulsrud Storruste. Storruste will be backed by clubmate Jørgen Stenløkk as well as OSI Vikings coaches Kai Shaw and Jakob Lenz. This group, one of the more experienced coaching teams, with experience in both quidditch and other sports, will be responsible for setting the strategy and tone of the Norwegian campaign in Frankfurt.

Kai Shaw keeping for OSI Vikings at European Quidditch Cup 2016 | Photo Credit: Van Klaveren Quidditch Photography
The Roster (by position)

Jørgen Helgeland Stenløkk  (NTNUI Rumpeldunk)
Kai Haugen Shaw (OSI Vikings)

Anders Gorboe (OSI Vikings)
Brynjar Morka Mæhlum (Westtown International Quidditch Crew)
Elisabeth Ingeberg Jørstad (Santa Barbara Blacktips, returning to NTNUI Rumpeldunk next season)
Hans-Kristian Undlien Taje (Westtown International Quidditch Crew)
Inger Viken (NTNUI Rumpeldunk)
Jakob Lenz (OSI Vikings)
Johanne Tekshov Steinlien (OSI Vikings)
Leandro Salemi (NTNUI Rumpeldunk)
Maja Ørsleie (NTNUI Rumpeldunk)
Nicolai Nossum (Westtown International Quidditch Crew)

Amund Kulsrud Storruste (NTNUI Rumpeldunk)
Anders Kulsrud Storruste (OSI Vikings)
Heidi Åmot (OSI Vikings)
Jorge Ebett “Silver” Chacón Murillo (NTNUI Rumpeldunk)
Martine Hjelting (Westtown International Quidditch Crew)
Mette Sundal (OSI Vikings)
Stein Elgethun (Katta Rumpeldunk

Interview with Amund Storruste and Jørgen Helgeland Stenløkk
Bex McLaughlin interviews Team Norway’s head coach Amund Storruste and Norges Rumpeldunkforbund (Norwegian Quidditch Association) president and assistant coach Jørgen Helgeland Stenløkk.

Jørgen Helgeland Stenløkk chasing at Valentines Cup III | Photo Credit: Van Klaveren Quidditch Photography
Quidditch Post: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us! So, along with Jakob Lenz and Kai Haugen Shaw, you are the coaching team for the Norwegian squad. How are you balancing your varying coaching styles? Who is in charge of what?
Amund Storruste: All of us have different things we can contribute. Kai brings many years of experience and competitive play. Jakob has a good ability to analyze play and find flaws and points for improvement. Jørgen also brings years of experience and good insight on the NTNUI team members of the national team, while Jakob and Kai know how the OSI players work. I myself have a sports background from many years of handball, which I feel transfers tactically well over to quidditch. We have worked together before so I am very confident that the upcoming training sessions will run smoothly. Currently, I have been organizing the general stuff that has to be fixed before World Cup regarding hotels, flights, jerseys, and others things, with tons of help from many of the motivated players on the team.
Jørgen Helgeland Stenløkk: The reasoning behind having a coaching team of four people is simply that these are the people who already run the practices for their respective teams, which means they already have authority with most of the other national team players. Ultimately, Amund is responsible for organising practices and deciding on team tactics, but it helps a lot for everyone to have a team of people who can figure out the most optimal ways to do stuff and to help run the practices.

QP: Team Norway claimed third place at the European Games last summer. With a lot of returning squad members, what are your hopes for World Cup?
AS: It is hard to say. It’s true that we have some returning members from last year, but we have also lost several of the important exchange students that helped take us far last year. But I hope that we’ll be able to show that Norway still is one of the top countries in Europe. It’s going to be tough this year, though, with teams like Belgium, Turkey, and Germany improving a lot from last years EG.
JS: It’s really hard to guess where we’ll end up. As Amund mentioned, several European teams have improved a lot from last summer, and at World Cup there’ll be several really good non-European teams too. Considering the Norwegian national team hasn’t had our first proper practice camp together yet, I’m not sure how we rank compared to other teams.

QP: Very true. Last European Games you had Mikel Poisse and Sylvain Hochedé who has now been selected for Team France. And then there was Lisa Tietze, who is now the speaking captain for Team Germany. Why is it hard to get Norwegians into quidditch?
AS: Firstly, I am very glad that Mikel, Sylvain, and Lisa have made their countries’ national teams. Playing with them last year was a true delight, and I wish them the best of luck this year! I think we have been doing a good job with getting more Norwegian people into quidditch this last year. It shows in the national lineup this year too, with only three foreign players on the squad. In general in all countries I think quidditch seems quite weird and different on first sight, so people can be a bit skeptical. People need to open up and be a little brave to try it out. In Norway that has resulted in many exchange students, eager to try out new things and get to know Norwegians, joining our teams and playing with us. I think this is a great thing, that we’re a community where both Norwegians and people of other nationalities can feel at home.
JS: Yeah, it’s not really about not getting Norwegians to play, it’s just that exchange students are more open to try it out. It’s the same with other stuff exchange students do a lot, like cabin trips. The Norwegian quidditch scene is growing every year, though, so probably the percentage of exchange students playing quidditch on Norwegian teams should decrease. 

QP: Community is a cornerstone of quidditch for sure! The next, of course, is competition! Who would Team Norway most like to play and why?
AS: For Norwegians, the most important part of every competition is beating Sweden! So I think most of us were looking forward to seeing Sweden getting a team together, but sadly they couldn’t make it after all. I’m not sure what the rest of the team thinks, but I am excited about a lot of different teams. Playing Turkey is always exciting, and Germany has improved a lot this last year, so they’ll be scary. World Cup is also the only chance to get to play teams outside of Europe, so getting a match against some of the experienced American teams or maybe Australia would be great!
JS: My favorite team to play last year was definitely France, so I’m hoping to get a new chance at that. They just play so well, and it brings out the best in us too. This year, it seems they’re working even harder to become the best they can be, so if we get to play them, I think it’s going to be a great match to both watch and play. For the same reasons, I hope we really get to play against the US.

QP: The USA is the big name coming into the event. How do you think Norway would stack up? Kai Shaw *did* play for Berkeley at least one time will that help?
AS: That’s going to be tough for sure! They have the physicality and the experience to steamroll over most teams. But with a smart playstyle and hard work I’m sure we could put up a good fight.
A couple of Kai-drives has never hurt anyone, so he’s going to be important for sure. But I’m not sure if his “intel” from the USA four years ago will be the most crucial part of the plan.
JS: To be honest, US is the one team I don’t think we can beat. I guess this isn’t really the sort of thing a coach should say, but the US is just playing in a different league than the rest of the world. We should be able to not get completely crushed, though, and I think it has the potential to be our best game of the tournament.

QP: Aside from Kai Shaw, who are Team Norway’s other star players?
AS: I think we have a team with a lot of depth this year, so I couldn’t name everyone. I am confident that all of the players on the team will perform well when they are put to the test! We have some returning players from last years national team, and they will be important to bring some structure into the team. At the same time we have a lot of new talent who I think will surprise many with a lot of great plays.
But, to name one, we have Elisabeth Ingeberg Jørstad returning from a year in the USA, and her experience will be invaluable to the team. She was the coach of Team Norway last year, and I’m sure she will bring a lot of constructive thoughts with her into the team.
JS: I agree, our team definitely has more depth this year than last, but there’s obviously some players who stand out more than the rest. Since Amund can’t mention himself, I’m going to point out that we have one of the best, if not the best, beaters in Europe, so he’s going to be a key part of the teams beater-play. For quaffle players, Nicolai Nossum is a really talented player, who’s starting to get quite some tournament experience by now, so you should watch out for him as well.

Jakob Lenz and Kai Shaw at the European Quidditch Cup 2016 | Photo Credit: Van Klaveren Quidditch Photography
QP: Can you name a couple of the returners to the squad?
AS: Jakob Lenz, Jørgen Helgeland Stenløkk, and Nicolai Nossum are the returning male chasers from last year and they bring a mix of physicality and experience to the table. Johanne Tekshov Steinlien, Elisabeth Ingeberd Jørstad, and Maja Ørsleie are the returning female chasers, and they they offer a choice between strength and speed. In the beater game Stein Elgethun will bring a smart, fluid approach to the strategy.

QP: Jorgen, as president, what impact do you think Norway’s World Cup run will have on Norway as a whole?
JS: Well, Norway managed to earn a reputation last year as one of Europe’s top nations, so there is some pressure to uphold that. As the amount of players grows, there’s going to be Norwegian players watching who don’t have a direct relationship with anyone on the team, so our final placement is definitely going to impact people’s thoughts about the general level in Norway. I think a good placement motivates people in general to improve their own skills, in addition to grow the community.
Also, placing highly means that Sweden stops thinking they can beat us, which is always nice.

QP: Amund, what does representing and coaching Norway mean to you? Especially playing alongside your little brother Anders? Brotherly rivalry or family pride?
AS: It means a lot to me! The players are many of my closest friends and I am truly grateful for having gotten the chance to lead and coach them. Playing together with my brother is also something I’m really looking forward to. I’m really proud of him and it is so much more fun playing and working together rather than playing against each other. So that’s going to be fun!
JS: Have you ever seen Amund’s and Anders’ jersey names?

QP: No, what are they?
AS: “Storruste” and “Storruste Jr.” But I think he’ll use “Storruste” on his jersey at World Cup now actually. Oh, and we also have the numbers 6 and 9. So that’s possibly going to confuse some refs.

You’ve heard it officials, players, and spectators alike keep a close eye on these two brothers and try not to get too confused.

Team Norway, or “our friends in the frozen north” as the rest of Europe see the Scandinavian side, were something of a powerhouse at European Games 2015, taking home the bronze medal. With the increased number of teams World Cup brings plus all the developing talent in Europe, it would be a shock for Norway to pull of a similar position in Frankfurt, but they can reliably see themselves in the top 10 at least.

In an already talented team, the star quaffle power of the Norwegian talent largely resides with captain Kai Haugen Shaw, chaser Elisabeth Ingeberg Jørstad, and keeper Jørgen Helgeland Stenløkk. Shaw is famous throughout Europe for his iconic facial hair and dynamic keeping. He brings years of experience to the squad, having cut his quidditch teeth with the team in Berkeley, California back in 2011; he has since represented the UK in 2014 and captained OSI Quidditch for two years. Despite barely scraping 6 tall, he covers the tallest hoop easily with unrivaled agility. Jørstad also represented Team UK in 2014, was British and European champion with the Radcliffe Chimeras in the 2013-14 season, and has spent the 2015-16 season with the Santa Barbara Blacktips in California. This former Team Norway captain is strong, tactically astute, and has an aggressive playing style that makes her one of Europe’s chasing elite. Stenløkk has played pretty much every position for NTNUI, but as keeper he reads the game well, and he can make a great hit.

In the beater game, Amund Kulsrud Storruste is perhaps the most physically fit quidditch player in Europe; everyone is familiar with trying to get #abslikeAmund. Lethal in any headband, his faultless beating had a devastating effect at the Norwegian Championship in March, securing NTNUI the title. His younger brother Anders Kulsrud Storruste is similarly threatening, and with deep female chaser talent including Jørstad, Maja Ørsleie, and Johanne Tekshov Steinlien, it would not be surprising for Norway to play a male beater pair.

Amund Kulsrud Storruste beating for NTNUI Rumpeldunk at European Quidditch Cup 2016 | Photo Credit: Ajantha Abey Quidditch Photography

New to the squad and definitely two players to watch are Anders Gorboe and Leandro Salemi. Neither were able to attend EQC, so they were until now Norway’s best kept secret. Belgian national Salemi played phenomenally at Norwegian Championships with drives not usually characteristic of a rookie; NTNUI would have made the upper bracket at EQC 2016 if he had been able to attend. Gorboe is athletic and disciplined, and he will be third keeper should Shaw or Stenløkk need him to step up into the green headband. If both can excel under the increased pressure of World Cup, expect good things.

The worry with Norway, however, is will the squad be able to pick themselves up after a disappointing EQC 2016? OSI scraped into the upper bracket, and NTNUI didn’t make the cut. If that combination of nerves and being strategically outmaneuvered has been remedied in time for Frankfurt, Team Norway is not to be underestimated with a squad rich in synergy and international experience. The team has had fairly regular practices in the lead up to World Cup considering the distances between many of the players. As the team pulls heavily from OSI and NTNUI, there will be complete strings that are used to playing together. Add in that a lot of this squad are returners from European Games and play on the mercenary team the  Norwegian Ridgebacks together, and Norway could be the most synchronised squad at the event.

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