Olympic medals for Norway

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Norway is traditionally a Winter Olympics powerhouse. But Norway's haul is below expectations so far in Vancouver, and as The World's Carol Zall explains, that's fodder for jokes at Norway's expense in Sweden.

KATY CLARK: Sweden's neighbor Norway usually does quite well at the Winter Olympics. Historically Norway is the nation with the greatest overall number of Winter Olympic medals. Not bad for a nation of under five million people. But Norway's haul at the Vancouver Games is lower than expect so far. That's the perfect excuse for some friendly Scandinavian trash talk, as The World's Carol Zall explains.

CAROL ZALL: Most Norwegians go into the Winter Olympics with great expectations.

ESTEN SAETHER: It's really big. I think the whole nation is watching the Games.

ZALL: Esten Saether is a sports journalist for Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet. He says Norwegians typically expect to win 20 to 25 medals in the Winter Olympics.. But so far, they've been disappointed.

SAETHER: It hasn't been that good, but it's not a scandal. People were very satisfied yesterday.

ZALL: Yesterday Norway picked up a couple of medals, including its first gold. They got another today for a total of 6 medals so far. Earlier this week when that total was lower, there was a sense that Norway was choking which prompted a newspaper in Norway's next door neighbor and rival Sweden, to crack this joke about Norway's poor performance.

SAETHER: They said that the Norwegian team in Vancouver had more psychologists than gold medals. We have four psychologists.

ZALL: Well now at least Norway has more medals that sports psychologists in Vancouver. But the insult still stung. It made it into the Norwegian papers not only because it hurt Norwegian pride, but also because it tapped into their long-standing rivalry with their Swedish neighbors.

SAETHER: Norway used to be a part of Sweden and we had the Swedish kind as our king some hundred years ago. And Norway, since we are the little nation we have also been the little brother in the relationship. But the last 20 years we have been much better in Sweden in winter sports.

ZALL: Over in Sweden journalist Jan Soderqvist says he thinks Norwegians have a bit of a complex about Sweden because Sweden has twice as many people and has big international brands like Volvo and Ikea.

JAN SODERQVIST: Norway didn't have very much other than fish and good athletes, winter athletes.

ZALL: Which is why there's so much at stake for the Norwegians at the Winter Olympics and why they don't like it when the Swedes poke fun at their athletes? But back in Norway, Esten Saether says that Norwegians took the Swedish jibe in the spirit in which it was intended.

SAETHER: Most people thought that it was quite funny and that was that. And the day after the Norwegian cross country sprinters beat the Swedish favorite and we were the ones that were laughing. So it's okay today.

ZALL: As for Norway's hopes for the rest of the Olympics, Saether says there's still high. And Sweden, according to Jan Soderqvist, their Olympic hopes are more modest. They just don't want to lose to Norway. For The World, I'm Carol Zall.