Having just returned from a vacation in Norway, I thought it would be fitting to write about that country’s most famous gymnast: Espen Jansen. What makes him notable in the sport of gymnastics isn’t so much his skills or results, but his longevity. Jansen has participated in every World Championship since 1991, with the exception of 1992 and 2009…not bad for a gymnast who will turn 42 in December!
Perhaps the only other current gymnasts who can boast such a record are Oksana Chusovitina and Jordan Jovtchev. Incidentally, they made their World Championship debut in 1991 as well, competing under the Soviet and Bulgarian flags.
In an era when many gymnasts choose to perfect and compete only a few events, it is refreshing to see Jansen continue to perform on all six. Indeed, he was the only gymnast in the entire field to compete on all events at the 2008 Cottbus Cup. His most recent results include 5th All Around at the 2009 Northern European Championships. He also qualified to four event finals in Cardiff, winning the gold medal on high bar and the bronze medal on rings. Jansen placed 42nd in qualifications at the 2009 European Championships and 64th the following year (four events only).
Espen Jansen, Parallel Bars
Espen Jansen, High Bar (with a funny dismount!)
Espen Jansen, a fun Pommel Horse routine
Jansen balances a busy lifestyle training, working, and spending time with his family. He taught gymnastics to the inmates at the prison where he worked, and he even took them to watch competitions in Oslo (International GYMNAST, May 2009, page 33). His enthusiasm makes him a great ambassador for the sport, especially in a country where gymnastics has not yet achieved much popularity.
There’s just one thing that still eludes Espen Jansen in his gymnastics career: competing in an Olympic Games. Norway will most likely not qualify gymnasts to London 2012, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed in hopes of Jansen receiving one of the coveted Wild Cards.
UPDATE (March 14, 2014) – He’s still going strong! At age 45, there’s nothing holding him back from competing at the Norwegian Cup this weekend. On Facebook he recently declared his motto to be “any competition you can walk home from, is a good one:)“!