Athletes across America train hard to wear the red, white and blue in the Olympics. Knut Sommerfeldt is doing the same, but he hopes to wear those colors for Norway.
Sommerfeldt, a former Missouri decathlete, will compete in the Audrey J. Walton Combined Event Carnival at noon today and Friday at Audrey J. Walton Stadium. He will test himself against a strong field of 44 athletes from around the globe that has similar Olympic dreams.
There are 20 competitors expected for the decathlon and 24 for the heptathlon. Kip Janvrin, who represented the United States in the 2000 Olympics, is the biggest name in the decathlon. Sheila Burrell, who represented the United States in the 2000 Olympics, and Austra Skujyte, who represented Lithuania, will compete in the heptathlon.
Bjorn Sommerfeldt, Knut’s younger brother, is MU’s top decathlete. Michelle Moran, a former Tiger, will compete in the heptathlon unattached.
Knut Sommerfeldt won four Big 12 Conference titles at Missouri. He won the indoor heptathlon once and earned three straight titles in the decathlon from 2001-03. In 2003, he set the Missouri record in the decathlon with 7,685 points.
This summer he will try to take his career to a higher level.
“My whole goal this year is to get the (Olympic) A standard, which is 8,000 points,” he said. “I feel like this meet might be a little bit too early for that, but I’m shooting for the B standard, which is 7,860. If I obtain that, it would be awesome.”
Sommerfeldt said he will look to make his move Friday.
“My strength has always been the second day because I usually have a weaker first day,” he said. “I’m more of a technique kind of guy. On the second day, we have the pole vault, the javelin and the hurdles, and those are my stronger events.”
Sommerfeldt said he needs to improve his personal best of 6 feet, 1 ½ inches in the high jump to help him qualify for the Olympics.
“Technically, that has been my weakest event,” he said.
Sommerfeldt will graduate this week, but he said he plans to stay here because of the availability of places to train.
“Facility-wise, we don’t have the same opportunities all year because it’s hard to find indoor tracks to train at home,” he said. “In Missouri, there can be dramatic changes in the weather as well, but at least we have a track to go to.”
If Sommerfeldt doesn’t get the score he wants this weekend, he will have two more chances to do so. He plans to compete in the European Combined Events Cup July 3-4 in Hengelo, Netherlands, and the Norwegian national meet in Floro in Aug. 6-8.
Sommerfeldt followed his older sister Eli to Missouri for his collegiate career just as Bjorn, a freshman, has.
Sommerfeldt said having his brother here with him has had an affect on the way he trains.
“His training mentality is very tough,” Sommerfeldt said. “He goes all out every single day. I may be a little bit more hesitant to push myself that hard every day because I try to remain in balance. He has that mentality though, and I think it’s affected me positively.”
Naturally, the Sommerfeldts have developed a small sibling rivalry.
“He actually has a better personal record than me in the 400,” Sommerfeldt said. “It’s a little bit of a rivalry there in a few of the events, but overall I’m the better decathlete as of today.”
Assistant coach Matt Candrl, who coaches the Sommerfeldts in the decathlon, said the competition is healthy.
“It’s not like Bjorn doesn’t want to accomplish what Knut has accomplished, but if one of them is having difficulty, it’s always supportive,” he said. “There’s never any taunting, not even between them. It’s always, ‘Let’s get there together,’ for them.”
Regardless of what happens this summer to Sommerfeldt’s Olympic dreams, he said he will not quit.
“I will shoot for the next Olympics,” he said. “I’ve had many good experiences on the track. If they keep coming, I’ll keep doing it until I’m 30.”