Friday, December 13, 2013
“Carlsen is not part of Norwegian athletics”
Carlsen up for more prizes
December 12, 2013
Magnus Carlsen is now the reigning world champion in chess but that didn’t qualify him to be a candidate for Norway’s best male athlete of the year. As the debate goes on over whether chess is also sport, Carlsen is nominated for other prizes at Norway’s annual sports gala on January 4.
Chess is a recognized sport in 105 countries, according to Professor Matti Goksøyr of Norway’s top athletic college(Norges idrettshøgskole). It’s also been recognized as a sport by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the international chess federation FIDE claims that it deals with sport.
Several of Norway’s top athletes, like golfer Suzann Pettersen and legendary alpine skier Kjetil André Aamodt, view Carlsen as “absolutely a top athlete,” and for years he’s received lots of votes for the annual athletes’ prize, Goksøyr wrote in a recent commentary in newspaperAftenposten. Goksøyr also stresses that “athletics isn’t only about strength, speed and muscles. Athletics is muscle movement set into a conscious perspective.”
The sports bureaucrats running Norway’s national athletics federation (Norges Idrettsforbund), however, note that Norway’s chess federation (Norges Sjakkforbund) isn’t a member of the athletics federation, and therefore Carlsen and other chess players don’t qualify. Those arguing that Carlsen (who puts great emphasis on physical athletic exertion to stay in shape because “when I feel well I play well”) should have been a candidate for top athlete of the year would first need to push through new rules for doling out the athletics federation’s prizes.
“Carlsen is not part of Norwegian athletics,” Tore Øvrebø, leader of the jury that handles the athletics prizes, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “He is a fantastic performer, and does something that borders on being sport, but for now he is not a part of Norwegian athletics.”
That position has infuriated many fans of Carlsen, and debate has been brisk on social media sites this week, with the athletics federation drawing harsh criticism. It remains undaunted. “The jury’s main principle is that we don’t discuss candidates, but the nominations speak for themselves,” stated a press release from the federation earlier this week. “They do this year as well, but since there’s been special focus on the (upcoming) sports gala and Magnus Carlsen’s presentation at the World Chess Championship, we made a small exception here.”
Carlsen has been nominated for the prize of Årets navn (The Name of the Year) and for the top prize in the Åpen klasse (Open class). He reportedly is pleased about the nominations and “understands that he can’t be nominated as male athlete of the year” in Norway, according to his manager Espen Agdestein.
And Carlsen, who’s been raking in lots of other honours lately, like being allowed to kick off a football match for his favourite professional club Real Madrid, will attend the athletics gala in January. “He thinks it’s nice to be nominated for the two prizes and also looks forward to dole out other prizes at the gala,” Agdestein told NRK.
The others nominated for male athlete of the year, by the way, include skiers Emil Hegle Svendsen, Petter Northug and Aksel Lund Svindal along with ski jumper Anders Bardal and snowboarder Torstein Horgmo.