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Rodal comes back to show the youngsters how it’s done

Rodal comes back to show the youngsters how it’s done
Duncan Mackay for the IAAF
24 May 2002 – Norway’s 1996 Olympic 800 metres champion Vebjoern Rodal is to make a comeback only 18 months after announcing his retirement. The 29-year-old has entered his country’s national championships in August because he said he has grown so disillusioned at the standard of middle-distance running in Norway.

“The new generation of runners aren’t that good,” said Rodal. “I’m looking forward to compete with athletes aged 20 to 22 years old. Maybe my presence could enhance their performances.”

Rodal made his decision to quit after he was knocked out in the semi-finals of the 800m at the 2000 Olympics. Rodal, a household name in Norway, formally made the announcement at a press conference two months after Sydney. When he entered the room in Oslo to meet journalists he arrived with his track shoes in his hand.

“The decision to put these on the shelf is definite,” he said about the shoes at the time. “I don’t feel I have the motivation needed anymore to be an 800m runner in the world class. I want to spend more time with my family and children.”

Rodal insisted that he has no plans to extend his second career any further than the Norwegian championships in Sandnes but many people believe that it may be the start of a build-up towards returning to the Olympics in Athens in 2004.

Rodal is arguably Norway’s greatest ever male runner. His record includes a World Championship bronze in the 800m in 1995 and a silver in the 1994 European championships in the same event. He also won seven Norwegian championships in the 800m or 1500m during the 1990s.

But the undoubted highlight was in Atlanta in 1996 when he won the Olympic gold medal in 1min 42.58sec, which at that time made him the fifth fastest 800m runner in history. Even now the time ranks him as the seventh fastest half-miler ever.

Since Rodal’s retirement, however, standards have slipped alarmingly in Norway and last year no-one managed to break 1:48 for 800m and the country had no-one ranked among the world’s top 100.