Hjalmar "Hjallis" Andersen (1923 - 2013)

Hjalmar Johan Andersen (known by his nickname Hjallis) was born on the island of Rødøy in Nordland County, where his mother was from. His father was a sailor from Hammerfest, but they met in Trondheim and Hjallis was convinced that it was here that he was conceived!

The family moved to Trondheim in the 1920s, settling on Biskop Darres street, an area today called Svartlamon. Hjallis eventually had five younger sisters! In his formative years he sailed with his father on three long freighter voyages, and learnt to take responsibility at an early age. Later he worked as an errand boy on land. His income served the family well during the hard times in the 1930s.

Boys in the neighbourhood were active in all kinds of sports, and speed skating had a strong position. Hjallis just managed to show his worth in sports as a teenager at the bastion of working-class sports, Reinabanen, only a stone's throw away from his home. But then the war came, halting the careers of many a young talent.

Hjallis married in 1945. At about this time his speed skating career really took off. As a member of the sports club Falken he soon came under the wing of the coach Karl Brechan, along with Sverre Farstad and Henry Wahl. Hjallis and these two were together called the “Falken trio”. Wahl became Norwegian champion in the Stadion arena in Trondheim in 1947, while Farstad became Olympic champion in 1948 (1500 m) and European champion in 1949. This championship was also the breakthrough for Hjallis, where he set a new world record in the 10 k.

Then came the golden years 1950-52. You can read more about this in other sources! Hjallis won almost everything there was to be won: Titles, prizes, medals, records and championships. In the Stadion arena in Trondheim he set a new world record in the 5000 m with a time of 8.07.3, on Saturday 13 January 1951. This is one of the greatest moments in Trondheim's sports history. He was cherished by everyone, earning the "title" “Kong Glad” [King Happy]. After a year's break he continued with his sport until the 1956 season, but by then younger athletes had arrived.

After some interludes operating a sporting goods store in Trondheim, his second major career started, his work with Velferdstjenesten for Handelsflåten [the welfare service for the Norwegian merchant marine] from the early 1960s. This was just the thing for him, working for the general well-being of and providing sports activities for the sailors who plied domestic and foreign waters. Hjallis then moved to Tønsberg with his wife and three children, and lived there the rest of his life.

Hjallis was immensely popular all over Norway. He was an active athlete and always on the move, giving talks and remaining "forever young", even as a pensioner. The foundation for his unique position was laid during a time when great experiences and events were much more shared between the people than today, where now the world comes to us through innumerable channels. Hjallis was the right man at the right time (the 1950s) in the right place (the speed-skating rink).

He maintained close contact with Trondheim and the Trøndelag region all his life. In September 2009, this 86-year-old man impressed many as he visited several environments in his home town giving talks and socializing with old friends and admirers. When he was given the honorary sports award with Knut Johannesen, another national speed-skating hero nicknamed "Kuppern", during the sports gala night in January 2013 on TV, he let Kuppern have the microphone. This was also a sign that Hjallis was starting to feel his age. On his 90th birthday on 12 March he received much acclaim and attention. Two weeks later he died after a fall in his house. His funeral was paid for by the state.
Hjalmar Andersen is an Honorary Citizen of Trondheim (one of a total of three), and a statue of him (created by Per Ung) has a central place in the town. Its portrays Hjallis forever taking his powerful skating strides.
“To do the best you can, come as you are, and just try.” This was a motto Hjallis believed in throughout his life. This was also exactly what he did!

Author: Einar Rædergård