By Teddy Stenmark
Former top-class amateur boxer Martin Kitel followed his heart and left Sweden after his amateur career, married a Norwegian girl, took a long break from boxing but the itch came back! He couldn’t stay away! The attraction to the sport who took him as far as to the Olympics games in Seol in 1988, and made him a household name in Swedish amateur circles, was too strong and lured him back. He began training fighters in Oslo (SP09) and now he is their (Norway’s) national team coach! Boxing does that to people! It’s strange! I caught the 37 year old trainer just back from vacation here is what he had to say;
Teddy Stenmark: Hello Martin it’s correct that you are now national team coach in Norway nowadays?
Martin Kitel: Yes that’s correct!
Teddy Stenmark: Are you in charge of all categories, female/male/ junior then?
Martin Kitel: Yes I have had the responsibilities for all groups but it’s planned for that I should focus a little bit more on the male seniors now when the next Olympics are just around the corner!
Teddy Stenmark: When did you officially take over?
Martin Kitel: It was after the 2000 Sydney games!
Teddy Stenmark: What was your profession prior to this?
Martin Kitel: I worked at a school, handling the student’s leisure time activities!
Teddy Stenmark: Where do you live now?
Martin Kitel: I live in Oslo!
Teddy Stenmark: What made your mind up to move to Oslo and Norway in the first place?
Martin Kitel: I met a Norwegian girl in Stockholm who worked at The Swedish boxing federation’s office (Nina Eriksson) and she lived in Norway of course! We simply got tired of the long distances and the constant travelling to see each other so I moved, but we are not together anymore!
Teddy Stenmark: No I heard that you are now happily married with two-time European amateur champion Hennriette Birkeland (Featherweight)!
Martin Kitel: Yep! And two time World silver medallist also I might add!
Teddy Stenmark: Yes! Of course, sorry, how old is Henriette now?
Martin Kitel: She turns 30 on July 25th!
Teddy Stenmark: Which Club were you trainer for before you got the National Team Coach-position?
Martin Kitel: SP09! That’s an Oslo-Club!
Teddy Stenmark: I know that you boxed for Häljarp AIS and Narva BK when you boxed as an amateur in Sweden, did you ever represent any other clubs?
Martin Kitel: No, not any other clubs than those two! And I was with trainer Krister Backman for many years. I enjoyed training under his guidance!
Teddy Stenmark:I know that you boxed on the 1988 Seoul Olympics, did you represent Sweden at any other international championships?
Martin Kitel: Yes I boxed at the European junior championships in Finland in 1984 and lost to a guy from Bulgaria called Todorov in my opening match! That and the 88 games were the two only championships I participated in!
Teddy Stenmark: Which years were you Swedish amateur champion?
Martin Kitel: I won the senior national title in 1986, 1988 and 1989! I lost in the final to Lars Myrberg (Olympic bronze medal winner 1988) in 1987, it was close but Myrberg was definitely a very good boxer! I also won the junior title in 1983 and 3 under 15 National titles (diploma-fights).
Teddy Stenmark: Did you have any fights in Norway? When did you retire from boxing?
Martin Kitel: I retired in 1989, my motivation ran out when things didn’t go my way that year, I didn’t come up to my full potential like I did in 1988 (my best year) and No I didn’t have any fights at all in Norway! I took a break for a couple of years just after 1989, and after a while, I took it up again and started my career as a trainer!
Teddy Stenmark: How is the amateur boxing in Norway compared to Sweden?
Martin Kitel: We don’t have as much fighters to pick from as you have in Sweden, still we take care of the few talents that come our way and every now and then they perform well!
Teddy Stenmark: Do you have any nice talented boxers right now? A few that you can mention for the readers?
Martin Kitel: Yes there is one at 71 kilos or 69 that it’s called now, Kay Tverberg that probably is the best one I have for now, but then we have a pretty young guy that I have hopes for as well, Mohammed Massoudy, he has the right tempo in his body and can turn into something if he keeps up like he has been. Then there is a super heavyweight who were really good as a junior but been away for about four years Andreas Barkhall, he is now back on track again. Time will tell if he can go all the way!
Teddy Stenmark: Are the economic side as strained for you Norwegians as it is for us Swedes?
Martin Kitel: The Norwegian Boxing federation pretty much takes care of it self; we don’t get too much financial aid from the Norwegian Olympic Committee! They give the most help to Track & Field I am sorry to say!
Teddy Stenmark: Are you in good shape yourself these days? Do you spar anything nowadays?
Martin Kitel:I have stayed in pretty OK shape I think! I weigh about 80 kilos and fact is that when Arve Breidahl was training for his comeback I sparred a few rounds with him!
Teddy Stenmark: Have you had other interests as well? Were you good in any other sports?
Martin Kitel: No not really, when I started with boxing I felt right away that it was the right sport for me, but I have tried other sports naturally, like, judo, track & field, badminton, football, table-tennis and Rifle-shooting (Mauser)!
Teddy Stenmark: You are a Norwegian citizen now then I guess?
Martin Kitel:No I am not! There is no point really! I have all the rights I need as it is anyway! I still have the Swedish passport!
Teddy Stenmark: Who was the toughest fighter you faced as a fighter and who were your hardest rival in Sweden for the national team spot?
Martin Kitel: the toughest one I met…hmm..I fought a Finnish guy in a Sweden-Finland junior meeting once and that was memorable, really, really tough as I recall but naturally I have squared off with bigger names like Torsten Schmitz (Germany) Frank Liles (USA) to mention the best. For a while there in 1988 I boxed four our five of the best boxers in the world and lost on close 3-2 decisions. The toughest Swedish rival? Well it’s several actually, Lars Myrberg whom I never managed to beat despite four tries could be one, Marcel Yman whom I lost to once but beat in the Nationals finals another, and my club-mate Erik Bredler perhaps! If Lotfi Ayed hadn’t moved up to middle I am pretty sure that the two of us would have had a serious rivalry. We sparred a lot! He was solid and strong but not a very hard puncher.
Teddy Stenmark: Do you work closely with your Swedish colleague, Lennart Bernström? Do you talk a lot?
Martin Kitel: Not very much! A little perhaps, we run into each other on tournaments naturally and talk on those occasions of course but not much more than that!
Teddy Stenmark: When is your next activity with the boxers? When do your national team fight again?
Martin Kitel: It will be in September, I am gathering the guys now on training camps to select who will represent the team!
Teddy Stenmark: Thanks Martin for taking the time out for this interview, it was really nice chatting with you! Good luck with your work in the future!
Martin Kitel: Thank you very much! No problems at all!
Teddy Stenmark ([email protected])