An eyebrow or two were raised when the Danish Sports Federation Monday morning announced the names of the three nominees for Athlete of the Year 2013. Besides [Le Mans legend] Tom Kristensen, the two relatively unknown athletes archer Maja Jager and skeet shooter Jesper Hansen are nominated for one of Denmark’s most prestigious awards. A fact that surprised most people.
Despite of both winning World Championships gold in the past year, not many had expected that they would be chosen at the cost of among others Jeanette Ottesen and Rikke Møller Pedersen. The two swimmer impressed everyone at the World Championships this year, when they not only won gold and silver, but Rikke Møller Pedersen also swam the fastest time ever in the 200 meter breaststroke event. With these two strong performances, Danish Swimming Federation high performance manager Mikkel von Seelen finds it difficult to see how his two swimmers could be passed over:
– One would think that either Rikke or Jeanette should be on that list. The first Danish world record in an Olympic distance in 61 years should at least qualify Rikke. These prices are after all a subjective assessment, but Rikke’s performance is Danish sports history. The only event I can compare it to is when Wilson Kipketer broke the world record in athletics, he says, and points out that the size of the sport of swimming really sets Rikke Møller Pedersens performance in perspective:
– The world record was set in one of the major international sports that the entire world cares about. Swimming and athletics are two of the sports where the competition is hardest. And there we now have a Dane who is the fastest in the world ever.
– But Rikke didn’t win World Championships gold the day after she had set the world record. She had to settle for silver, and that may be one of the reasons why she is sorted out.
This view supports Rikke Møller Pedersen herself. She simply believes that people find it difficult to understand how great it is to set a world record:
– People want something tangible. They want to see a medal – preferably of gold. That is what some of the other candidates can provide. I don’t think they understand my performance in the same way. I have just a piece of paper to show for it, that might not seem like so much to outsiders, says the 24-year-old swimmer and stresses that she has received plenty of recognition in the swimming environment:
– Of course I would have liked to have been nominated, so that I could have been recognized for the work I have put into it. But the main thing for me is that those who understand swimming well, praise my performance. And that they have done. Unbelievably many coaches have come over and told me how great my performance was, says Rikke Møller Pedersen.
But she hasn’t entirely put the dream of winning the prize aside.
– If it is gold, people want, I’ll have to deliver that the next time.
Rikke Møller Pedersen broke the world record in the 200 meter breaststroke, while Jeanette Ottesen won World Championships gold in the 50 meter butterfly.