Norway: 9 Gold Medals (An interesting reason why)

The United States, a nation of 300 million, won nine gold medals this year in the Winter Olympics. Norway, a nation of 4.7 million, also won nine. This was no anomaly. Over the years, Norwegians have won more gold medals in Winter Games, and more Winter Olympics medals over all, than people from any other nation.

There must be many reasons for Norway’s excellence, but some of them are probably embedded in the story of Jan Baalsrud.

In 1943, Baalsrud was a young instrument maker who was asked to sneak back into Norway to help the anti-Nazi resistance.

--David Brooks

One reason the 2010 Winter Olympics were exciting for me was how well Sweden and the USA performed. In addition, the Gold Medal hockey game (last event) between Canada and the USA was as thrilling a hockey game as any of the 100+ I witnessed when I worked at Madison Square Garden in the 1990's! We just ran out of gas and the new "Great One", Mr. Sidney Crosby (plays for the Pittsburgh Penguins) capitalized on it.

During the games, I also noticed Norway's success and sent a text message to some of my Norwegian colleagues about the country's performance. As it turned out, they were one of the best and the story below is one of the most compelling I've read - it offers an interesting reason as to why they had such an outstanding Olympics.

Rarely do I print an article in its entirety but this one deserves the space. The link is above and the article by NY Times columnist David Brooks is below.

Congrats USA, Congrats Sweden, Congrats Canada and Congrats Norway.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

Op-Ed Columnist

The Hard and the Soft

The United States, a nation of 300 million, won nine gold medals this year in the Winter Olympics. Norway, a nation of 4.7 million, also won nine. This was no anomaly. Over the years, Norwegians have won more gold medals in Winter Games, and more Winter Olympics medals over all, than people from any other nation.

There must be many reasons for Norway’s excellence, but some of them are probably embedded in the story of Jan Baalsrud.

In 1943, Baalsrud was a young instrument maker who was asked to sneak back into Norway to help the anti-Nazi resistance.

His mission, described in the book “We Die Alone” by David Howarth, was betrayed. His boat was shelled by German troops. Baalsrud dove into the ice-covered waters and swam, with bullets flying around him, toward an island off the Norwegian coast. The rest of his party was killed on the spot, or captured and eventually executed, but Baalsrud made it to the beach and started climbing an icy mountain. He was chased by Nazis, and he killed one officer.

He was hunted by about 50 Germans and left a trail in the deep snow. He’d lost one boot and sock, and he was bleeding from where his big toe had been shot off. He scrambled across the island and swam successively across the icy sound to two other islands. On the second, he lay dying of cold and exhaustion on the beach.

Two girls found and led him to their home. And this is the core of the story. During the next months, dozens of Norwegians helped Baalsrud get across to Sweden. Flouting any sense of rational cost-benefit analysis, families and whole villages risked their lives to help one gravely ill man, who happened to drop into their midst.

Baalsrud was clothed and fed and rowed to another island. He showed up at other houses and was taken in. He began walking across the mountain ranges on that island in the general direction of the mainland, hikes of 24, 13 and 28 hours without break.

A 72-year-old man rowed him the final 10 miles to the mainland, past German positions, and gave him skis. Up in the mountains, he skied through severe winter storms. One night, he started an avalanche. He fell at least 300 feet, smashed his skis and suffered a severe concussion. His body was buried in snow, but his head was sticking out. He lost sense of time and self-possession. He was blind, the snow having scorched the retinas of his eyes.

He wandered aimlessly for four days, plagued by hallucinations. At one point he thought he had found a trail, but he was only following his own footsteps in a small circle.

Finally, he stumbled upon a cottage. A man named Marius Gronvold took him in. He treated Baalsrud’s frostbite and hid him in a remote shed across a lake to recover.

He was alone for a week (a storm made it impossible for anyone to reach him). Gangrene invaded his legs. He stabbed them to drain the pus and blood. His eyesight recovered, but the pain was excruciating and he was starving.

Baalsrud could no longer walk, so Gronvold and friends built a sled. They carried the sled and him up a 3,000-foot mountain in the middle of a winter storm and across a frozen plateau to where another party was supposed to meet them. The other men weren’t there, and Gronvold was compelled to leave Baalsrud in a hole in the ice under a boulder.

The other party missed the rendezvous because of a blizzard, and by the time they got there, days later, the tracks were covered and they could find no sign of him. A week later, Gronvold went up to retrieve Baalsrud’s body and was astonished to find him barely alive. Baalsrud spent the next 20 days in a sleeping bag immobilized in the snow, sporadically supplied by Gronvold and others.

Over the next weeks, groups of men tried to drag him to Sweden but were driven back, and they had to shelter him again in holes in the ice. Baalsrud cut off his remaining toes with a penknife to save his feet. Tired of risking more Norwegian lives, he also attempted suicide.

Finally, he was awoken by the sound of snorting reindeer. A group of Laps had arrived, and under German fire, they dragged him to Sweden.

This astonishing story could only take place in a country where people are skilled on skis and in winter conditions. But there also is an interesting form of social capital on display. It’s a mixture of softness and hardness. Baalsrud was kept alive thanks to a serial outpouring of love and nurturing. At the same time, he and his rescuers displayed an unbelievable level of hardheaded toughness and resilience. That’s a cultural cocktail bound to produce achievement in many spheres.

The beauty of snow and ice!

Tiger's Apology - The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

In America, millions stopped to watch Tiger Woods deliver his 13 minute apology earlier this month. I didn't see it until a few days after. Many here in Sweden also had a keen interest with his wife Elin being Swedish. Despite Tiger's foolish actions, his underwhelming apology and the fascination with anything Tiger, there is much "Good" to come from his sad ordeal. More on that later.

Let's start with the "The Bad".

I thought it was a bad move to give the apology three months after his infamous car accident and the mistress frenzy that followed the crash. Tiger didn't owe an apology to anyone except his wife and family. Being famously private, he should have had the courage to maintain his code of privacy and avoid any form of public apology. If he was going to say anything, it should have been a short and direct statement once the pool of speculation about his hidden lifestyle began.

Instead, Tiger allowed the media to create a story of their own which only fueled the fire. Where was his powerful public relations team when he needed them? For a man whose wholesome image was perfectly crafted before the scandal, Tiger made one bad move after another once the crisis began.

"The Ugly".

At times , this scandal has generated "OJ Simpson" type coverage in America which is troubling. Maybe his apology will lessen the thirst. Why are we so fascinated with a golfer who was unfaithful to his wife? Former President Bill Clinton is celebrated all over the world and his history with women is well documented.

I agree with William Rhoden of the NY times as to why the public is so intrigued. He wrote:

What a precious waste of time. The obsession with Tiger Woods’s personal life and infidelity says more about our misguided priorities as a nation than it does about Woods. It also speaks volumes about the current state of the news media, which unashamedly feed this obsession. We create these inventions only to tear them down.


It's an ugly situation when a man who hits a little white ball gets more coverage than the plethora of more important news issues in our complex world.

Now "The Good".

First, Tiger couldn't fall any further from the top so he has no where to go but up. His apology is the first step in taming the old Tiger and creating a fresh brand.

Second, our youth will hopefully be more aware that no man or woman is without faults, whether they are an athlete, teacher, CEO or bus driver. Millions of youth idolized Tiger and I suspect many still do. It's not often when an athlete has the opportunity to influence thousands if not millions of kids through a sport or foundation - Tiger has done both. His apology may have provided comfort to those who wondered how a seemingly perfect man could fail.

Tiger has the chance to shine even brighter with our youth as failures often make us stronger and if he stays on the path of responsibility, it's encouraging to think of the impact he can make in his next 34 years!

Third, the golf course will most likely be his saving grace when he reemerges. I'll admit, I was disappointed when he indicated that he wouldn't play in the Masters this April although it's probably wiser for him to make his reappearance closer to the end of 2010.

I've been surprised to hear people (even some friends who golf) talk about how his game will suffer when he returns. Look at what he accomplished with a life spinning out of control - 14 Majors, legendary status, top corporate spokesman and arguably the best golfer EVER at age 34! To achieve that takes supreme focus - how he was able to do it is nothing less than mind boggling.

Imagine for a moment a Tiger who only has to focus on family and golf. With that focus going forward and without the multiple distractions of the past, he could perform even better in the next decade! In addition, the PGA can't wait for him to walk the course again as ratings suffer without its biggest attraction.

Fourth, if he wins tournaments, he will quickly get sponsors and regain top media status. Losing a big chuck of $100 million dollars is not fun and I'm sure Tiger wants some of that corporate green back. Winning typically trumps the negatives in sports as Alex Rodriquez showed when he took the New York Yankees to another Word Championship in baseball last year after his steroid scandal.

Tiger's story will always be significant as I cannot recall any athlete who has taken a deeper dive in credibility although it will be a small footnote in his history as long as he cleans up his act and continues to hit the golf ball in ways that no professional golfer has.

Finally, how should we measure a man?

The measure of a man is not how he performs in sports - is not how much money he makes - is not how pretty his wife is - is not how many people admire him - is not how handsome or charming he is - is not how many celebrities he knows - is not how many women he seduces - is not how many things he acquires - the measure of a man is one's integrity and how he maintains those values throughout life.

I've been fortunate to enjoy success in a life that has been and continues to be interesting, fun and exciting but the one thing I am most proud of is that I am a good man - something I am grateful for in large part to my beloved mother, late father and numerous mentors.

That doesn't mean I am a perfect man or don't have temptations - I'm not and I do.

Being a good man means that you are able to deal respectfully and positively with any adversity or temptation so as to not stray away from the core value of integrity. In simple terms, a good man consistently values and follows the road of responsible behavior and resists the swirling seductions of irresponsibility.

Let's hope that a new and improved Tiger has begun the elevation toward good man status while wholeheartedly embracing a life of unwavering integrity. With his mega-platform to educate, inspire and empower, it would be a shame if that was not the case.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

A statue promoting sports at a playground in Stockholm, Sweden

Avoid Injuries Due to YOUR Own Actions

When I was a child, I would hear on more than one occasion about a woman burning herself with hot water in the kitchen. One time is understandable although after several times I was baffled.

That incident stayed in my mind and I've always made a conscience effort NOT to injure myself due to my own actions. And I am not talking about competing in sports or physical activity or embracing life to the fullest as one sometimes cannot control the injury factor – I am referring to injuries that occur as one journeys in daily life situations such as cooking in the kitchen, walking on ice, lifting boxes, carrying a child, driving or using tools.

I was inspired to write this article after two people in my circle injured themselves. The first occurred in the kitchen which resulted in a severe cut and the second happened from slipping on ice. Both injuries were very serious and may have long term effects. In addition, one could have been avoided.

I am hopeful that my readers will be motivated to be more careful so as to avoid something similar happening. Throughout my life, I have found that carelessness, rushing, impatience or being oblivious to one’s surroundings to be a major reason for senseless injuries that didn’t have to occur.

Numerous people I know have also injured their backs due to lifting heavy boxes/objects. Heavy items should be left to professionals and I preached that to a friend who asked me to help him move his gigantic TV (years before plasma) – a task for at least 3 people. Against my better judgement, I agreed yet told him if the TV became too heavy, I was dropping it. He understood and as we were lifting, that point came and I dropped it on a nearby table. The table was damaged although more importantly, my back was not. The TV was fine. If you find yourself in a similar situation, remember, no object is worth a lifetime of back pain.

Can the “perfect storm” of an accident occur due to one’s actions? Of course. The aforementioned friend who suffered the kitchen cut probably falls into that category although most injuries I have heard of or seen could have been avoided if “Carefulness” was taken more seriously.

Ice is a particularly tricky area and many (i.e. older people) fall victim to its dangers. When you are walking on or around ice, there are four things to be concerned about – being careful, walking slowly, having proper shoes and being prepared for a potential fall. If you are in a hurry or not paying attention, a severe injury can occur. I often hold my hands straight out when walking on ice in order to balance myself. In addition, I am always prepared to fall on ice – preparation that helped me to avoid a serious injury in college when I took a bad spill but was spared because I was ready for the fall.

Remember the following story the next time you find yourself near ice:

In 2003, Dr. Atkins was enjoying the moment particularly because his controversial weight loss philosophy was finally getting the respect he thought it deserved. He was in his early 70's and life was good.

As he was walking down a New York City street, he slipped and fell on ice. He suffered a severe head injury and never recovered. He died just as the glory was shining upon him. What a shame.


Happy Gswede Sunday!

My friend Fredrik took this lovely picture on the beach in Skåne (southern Sweden)

A Man Dying Yet Choosing to Have Fun

If you haven't been fortunate enough to witness to "The Last Lecture" by Dr.Randy Pausch, now is your chance. Set aside 10 minutes as it will be well worth it.

He was a man who had terminal cancer yet didn't let the disease affect his love for life or his desire to have fun. I was immensely inspired and his insight made me think of areas in which I need to improve in order to maximize the FUN in my life.

During his talk, he touched on issues that more people should embrace such as:

--Not complaining - (Something that must be improved in Sweden)

--People being more important than THINGS - (The Value of THINGS is a big reason why so many American Families (and others around the world) are swimming in debt)

--Choosing to Have Fun - (What's life without having Fun?)

--Having Dreams

--Working Hard

--And several other themes

Oprah Winfrey asked him to give a portion of his original talk on her show. The link is below.

If this video doesn't inspire you, one thing is for need to have more FUN in your life.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

Somehow, this football (soccer in USA) found its way onto our back terrace!