It could have been a plot for a Hollywood movie, maybe called “Come back stronger” or “Never give up”. It is a story of will, endurance and fighting spirit.
On Sunday, Nora Mørk will play her fourth EHF EURO final for Norway, two years after suffering what could have been a career-ending injury.
“This is what I was fighting for, for those moments to create memories, and to enjoy every minute, especially of the final. And I am grateful that I do not have any pain anymore. My body is fit, and I am really excited to be back and even to play a final,” Mørk says.
It is a decade since young Nora took her first titles, steering Norway to the gold medals at the U20 World Championship in Korea, then winning senior EHF EURO gold in Herning.
Some months later, Mørk won the EHF Champions League for the first time, with Larvik HK, which at that time was a club supplying the majority of the Norwegian national team. Some months later, she had problems with her knee and began a series of surgeries until everything was perfect again.
By the time of the EHF EURO 2014, when Mørk won her second European title and had her first All-star Team appearance, her star had risen and she was acknowledged as one of the world’s best players, a left-handed shooter with genius and talent.
In 2015, she won her first World Championship title and was again individually recognised in the All-star Team. After her first setback, missing the Olympic final in Rio (but winning bronze), Mørk had a clean sweep of awards in December 2016: EHF EURO champion, the tournament’s top scorer, and All-star Team right back.
By now Mørk had joined Györi Audi ETO KC in Hungary, winning the EHF Champions League in 2017, followed by silver at the World Championship 2017 in Germany, when she was again top scorer.
But with losing this crazy final in Hamburg despite the support of 8,000 Norwegians, Mørk’s luck had turned. Some months later, the shock: she tore her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in February 2018 and was essentially out for a year, although as she sat on the bench for the FINAL4 at Budapest in 2018 she added one more Champions League trophy.
By May 2019, she was back on track, this time on the court, to win her third Champions League trophy with Györ and her fourth in total. However, Mørk’s knee problems had not been solved.
In summer 2019, she joined CSM Bucuresti – and in her first official match, after less than 30 minutes on court for CSM, she tore her ACL again and needed the whole 2019/20 season for recovery. She had some more operations, bringing her total number of knee surgeries up to 10, and finally went back to Norway, where it all started.
After missing the EHF EURO 2018 and the World Championship 2019 in Japan, now Mørk is back on track.
“It was fully the right decision to go back to Norway, to recover there,” she says, speaking on Saturday, one day before the EHF EURO 2020 final.
In October, she played her first Champions League matches for her new club Vipers Kristiansand and she made her national team comeback right before the EHF EURO in the test matches against Denmark.
Since then, she has proved her importance for her team. Netting in 12 goals against Germany and then being on a constant high, Mørk will become the top scorer of the EHF EURO 2020. She currently has 48 goals, 16 clear of her nearest rival playing in the final weekend (Croatia’s Camila Micijevic), and will be the first female player ever to take the top scorer award twice.
“The expectations on my comeback were really high, and I was bit afraid that I again would have problems with my knee. But I am really fit now, I feel no pain anymore, I am so happy that finally I found myself, and I think me and the team are stronger than in 2017. I am surprised on my recovery, it is really better than expected,” Mørk says.
Her happiness at being back on court is clear in her face during matches.
“I am so excited to be back and now even to play the final in my first tournament after my comeback. This means everything to me,” she says.
Her coach Thorir Hergeirsson expects her to be the X-Factor on Sunday against France.
“We are really happy to have her back in the team, she has some really tough years behind. We had hoped for her to come back so strong, but we could not expect it after what had happened to her. Definitely, she has the power and energy to help our team,” he says.
Centre back and IHF World Player of the Year 2019 Stine Oftedal has the same thoughts.
“It feels so great that Nora is back in the team, she had been out for years, now she is back really strong. She proves how important she is, it is simply great to have her back. Nora is a game-changer. We are grateful that she is okay again,” Oftedal says.
On Sunday, it will become clear whether Mørk can help her team win an 11th EHF EURO title and add another chapter to her incredible story.