“Mission impossible”? How a successful female cross-country skier managed a dual career as a professional athlete and medical student: A case study


Max Bergström1,2, Guro Strøm Solli2,4, Øyvind Sandbakk2 & Stig Arve Sæther3
1 Department of Health Sciences, Mid Sweden University, Östersund, Sweden;
2 Centre for Elite Sports Research, Department of Neuromedicine and Movement Science, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway; 3 Department of Sociology and Political Science, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway; 4 Department of Sports Sciences and Physical Education,
Nord University, Bodø, Norway

The aim of the present case study is to illuminate the factors contributing to the initiation, maintenance and discontinuation of the dual career of a Norwegian world-class athlete and medical student. We additionally aimed to highlight contextual factors facilitating and impeding the dual career development. The participant Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen was a Norwegian student-athlete in the 2005–2020 period when she concurrently achieved 10 FIS World Championship medals, one Olympic medal, and 43 World Cup podiums in cross-country skiing. Day-to-day training diary data, study load and progress, performance, and interviews were analysed. In most years, the participant’s annual training volume was c. 800–900 hrs/year. No significant differences in athletic performance were seen between the years with full-time studies, part-time studies, and study breaks. The participant Jacobsen experienced conflicting schedules and a lack of dual career support from stakeholders as the major challenges. Hence, the present single-case study provides unique data on the process and management of a dual career.

Click here to read this peer reviewed article in Scandinavian Sport Studies Forum, Vol. 13, 2022

MAX BERGSTRÖM works as a research assistant in the project “The female athlete” at the Swedish Winter Sport Research Centre (NVC) and Mid Sweden University (MIUN). His previous research has been focused on lifelong participation in sport (LLP) and communication barriers between female athletes and their coaches related to the menstruation cycle. Bergström has continued his research on the topic Dual Careers (DC) and is currently working with a study about mother-athletes in Scandinavian cross-country skiing.

GURO STRØM SOLLI is associate professor of sport science at the Faculty of Education and Art at Nord University. Her primary research field is performance development in endurance sports with a special focus on cross-country skiing. Solli is the leader of the research group Performance development in cross-country skiing and biathlon (PULS) at Nord University’s campus in Meråker.

ØYVIND SANDBAKK is professor at the Department of Neuromedicine and Movement Science, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), and director of the Centre for Elite Sports Research. His research aims to improve the understanding of sport performance, among other things by investigating integrative physiology and biomechanics, the effects of strength and endurance training, as well as the utilization of new technology to gain further understanding of these aspects in real-life environments.

STIG ARVE SÆTHER is an associate professor in sport science at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Department of Sociology and Political science. Main research interests are talent development, youth sport and sport psychology. His largest research project is a longitudinal 10-year follow-up study. Sæther is head of the research group Skill and Performance Development in Sport and School, head of the sports science staff, and head of education at Department of Sociology and Political science.

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