“Are you sure you don’t want to stop here!” his guide asked.  “No! I want to do 20 km!” Melvin insisted, barely able to feel his hands after having pushed himself 10 km on a ski-sleigh.

Melvin Ricardo Cornejo Gomez from El Salvador was one of five UWCRCN students and 450 participants in the 52nd annual Ridderrennet – a cross country skiing competition for people with various disabilities. Ridderrennet is the peak of a whole week of winter sports activities and competitions at Beitostølen. Here, people don’t see the fact that your legs are paralysed or that your eyes cannot see as a hindrance for activity. You just find a way to do it your way, perhaps with a little help from friends. That is why hundreds of participants, as well as volunteers, find their way back to Ridderrennet year after year.

Here is a report from two of the students, Alberto Pérez Arroyo (Spain) and Katharina Emilie Borg Baardseth (Norway).

On the 8th of March 11 students (5 participants and 6 volunteers), together with 4 staff members, left campus in the early morning, to spend a week at Beitostølen taking part in Ridderrennet.

After a 6-hour drive we finally arrived at Beitostølen, full of excitement and expectations for the upcoming week. Our apartment for the week was located right next to the hotel, which was the ‘event headquarters’ for the week. This is where all the information, happenings and ceremonies took place, together with our shifts in its restaurant. Both participants and volunteers from the College were divided into three teams,  and we helped out with one shift each per day: breakfast, lunch and dinner. In addition to this, the participants also had time practicing with their personal guides, and some smaller competitions were arranged throughout the week.

On Sunday we attended the opening ceremony, and the first team had their dinner shift. The main task in the restaurant was to help the participants, especially the blind ones, to get food from the buffet and guide them to their tables. The participants came from all over the world and were so happy and grateful, and we quickly created friendships with many of them. The highlight of the next day was probably the Karaoke Night in the evening. It started out pretty quiet, but with some help to get things going from the least shy people there – ourselves – the night ended with everyone dancing and singing.

The first competition took part on Wednesday, with Maja and Yerson participating. The rest of us brought lots of excitement, food and the UWC flag and were cheering for our dear co-years, and everyone else, until the last competitor passed the finish line. This was probably also the warmest day, where we were able to wear nothing but a t-shirt standing in the stadium! The day finished with a ‘pop quiz’ arranged by the Norwegian ‘pop quiz king’, Finn Bjelke. Thursday went by with 5 km cross-country for women and 10 km for men, with all of the participants from the College taking part: Melvin, Yerson, Edwin, Alberto and Maja – and everyone received medals at the ceremony in the evening!

Friday, the day before the big day, included the alpine competition. We had no participants from RCN taking part in it, but as always we showed up with big smiles and cheered for all the participants flying down the slope. It was incredible and very inspiring to see how they all managed to get over the finishing line, whether they were blind or in sit-skis. The day ended with an amazing talent show, with several participants and soldiers performing.

Melvin at the end of the 10km raceSaturday came- the big day! Melvin and Yerson had both decided to do the 20 km, while Alberto, Edwin and Maja went for 10 km. With our first participant starting at 9 am, we were all lined up at the stadium cheering for them, and providing them all with chocolate, food and water as soon as they finished. After a hours of hard work, our beloved Melvin showed up, after 20 km (!), and as probably one of the most beautiful, strongest and touching moment of the whole week at Beitostølen, Melvin reached his goal, with numerous of soldiers and volunteers lining up, applauding him all the way to the finish line.

In the evening all the teams in the restaurant helped out with the three-course dinner, before the official prize-giving ceremony took place at the Hotel. The last event on the schedule was located in the basement/bar of the hotel – the last dance-disco night. Tired after a long day, and a long week, we all went to bed with big smiles on our faces (and sore muscles).

On Sunday morning some of us completed our last shift at the restaurant, while the others cleaned the apartment. At 11am we left Beitostølen, tired, but extremely happy, after a wonderful week, with inspiring and amazing people, new friends and last but not least – incredibly good weather, giving us all a good tan to bring back to Flekke!

For some images from the week, click here.

A lovely image from a local newspaper.