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Norway's Kvalen and Tvinde aim for new heights

 
#2 Jonas Kvalen and #4 Lars Frederik Tvinde contributed to three sensational victories for Team Norway at the European qualifier in Kecskemét

Kecskemét, Hungary, May 12, 2014 - Norway’s men caused a real sensation at the first-round European Championship qualifier in Kecskemét, cruising to three straight victories to make the second round and continue their journey against the national teams of Spain, Ukraine and the Czech Republic.

That was a very remarkable achievement for a young team which is still developing and does not have many chances to compete internationally. Before the tournament held in Kecskemét, Norway’s men had won only four matches since they first participated in the European Championship back in 1981. That year, they beat Israel 3:1 in Kuopio (Finland), before two more victories over England followed in 1985 and 1987. Their last “happy day” prior to the memorable weekend in Hungary dated back to 2005, when they beat Moldova (3:2) in Steinkjer.

A good share of the players on the roster – including team captain Kare Helvik Morken and wing-spiker Mathias Loftesnes – comes from the same volleyball high school in Sauda. This also applies to Jonas Kvalen, who was the top scorer on Sunday as Norway recorded a remarkable 3:2 victory over hosts Hungary. Kvalen is one of very few Norwegian players to have competed in a foreign league in recent times. He did so during the 2012/2013 season when he moved to Poland to wear the Indykpol Azs Olsztyn jersey.
While in Poland, Kvalen played as a setter and crossed paths with Hungarian star Peter Veres. “We do not have that many chances to compete with international teams back in Norway, so we were all looking forward to this tournament,” he said.

Kvalen recently joined forces with the U20 national team supporting them in their preparations for their European campaign and even attending the first-round tournament held at the volleyball center in Kettering, England. “I helped my former high-school coach,” said Kvalen. “He is originally from Japan and has worked with many of us for the past few years. He asked me if I was willing to help the team over the Christmas period as they were preparing for their European qualifier in England. I ended up being their team manager in Kettering. Most of the players on that team come from the same school I also attended. I even went to their training camp and was their assistant coach. They won the tournament in England, qualified for the second round and they played again two weeks ago in Romania where they won one match and finished in third place. Though they lost the other two matches, their performance was very good. I am sorry I couldn’t be there to support them but we had already started our preparations with the senior national team for our tournament here in Hungary.”

Though he is only 22, Jonas Kvalen sounds very mature and seems to know what he intends to do in the future: “Right now I just want to concentrate on what I am doing but for the future, who knows, I could be a coach, I would like to work with young players. For the time being, however, I just want to focus on my own career as a volleyball player, and better myself. Last year things did not go that well, I had some injuries and could not play my best. So right now I want to work hard, keep focused and try to get a contract with a good club in Europe.”

Lars Frederik Tvinde is also among the players on the roster placed under head coach Scott Olsen. Last year, Tvinde won a silver medal at the U22 Beach Volleyball European Championship in Varna, Bulgaria, together with partner Hendrik Nikolai Mol. “I hope that one day we can achieve a similar result also indoors,” he said. “We are doing our best and we have played good matches here in Hungary. We have many young players who do not have that much experience; on top of this we do not get the chance to play other national teams that often. There are many differences between volleyball and beach volleyball; in volleyball you can jump much higher and the game is much faster,” Tvinde said. “Beach volleyball, on the other hand, is played at a much slower pace. It is difficult for me to say which one I love the most; I can only say that volleyball and beach volleyball are my life.”

It takes time and a lot of motivation to turn such dreams into reality, especially if you were born in a country where winter sports and handball get most of the media attention and funding, but in spite of their young age, with their passion and commitment, Jonas Kvalen and Lars Frederik Tvinde certainly have a bright future ahead.




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