Handball

Nora Mørk: Eight things to know about Norway's comeback queen

After nine knee surgeries, depression and being targeted by phone hacking, Mørk bounced back to lead Norway to EHF EURO 2020 glory. 

By Ken Browne ·

Nora Mørk says she was born with "two time bombs" for knees.

Luckily, Norway's handball star right back was born a fighter too.

In a rollercoaster few years including nine operations, she's experienced countless highs and lows.

Mørk is an Olympic bronze medallist, world champion, four-time European champ, and four-time Champions League winner.

But whatever life throws at her, be it injury, phone-hacking or depression, she gets back up, better and stronger than before.

Read on for eight things you may not have known about her incredible journey.

Nora Mørk playing against Spain at Rio 2016

1. Nora Mørk's twin sister also played handball for Norway

Nora wasn't the only promising handball player in the family.

Her twin sister Thea was a star in the making too, but was struck down by repeated injuries and retired at 27.

They even played together at Larvik HK for a number of seasons but three serious ACL ruptures, four shoulder dislocations, two Achilles problems, a bad hamstring tear and various other muscle and joint injuries hampered Thea's career.

Thea looked to have put that behind her when she was called up to Norway's squad for the 2018 EHF Euros in France, but she suffered another hamstring injury just minutes into the second match of the competition against Czech Republic and decided to call it quits.

“It’s very sad, but I feel done. I’m not working anymore," she announced.

“I’ve had so many injuries, but still had so much hope to join the national team for the European championship. When I was finally there, my body did not tolerate it."

Thea left handball behind to study a master's degree in sustainable energies, while her twin sister has continued to battle back from injury after injury.

2. On top of the world and a hero in Hungary

Nora Mørk's career moved to the next level in 2015

She starred as Norway became world champions, and the following year was the top goalscorer at Rio 2016 where the team defeated the Netherlands to take bronze.

Mørk also excelled at club level, helping Hungarian side Győri to three consecutive Champions League and domestic league doubles from 2017-2019.

She became a hero in handball-mad Győr, but that success came at a cost.

After playing close to 80 matches in 10 months in 2017, injuries starting to take their toll and she also suffered mentally.

3. Phone-hacking scandal and depression

In the autumn of 2017, Mørk's mobile phone was hacked into with her private photos shared online.

"When I found out, I just wanted to buy a ticket to the other side of the globe," she told Norwegian news agency NTB at the time.

"My life has changed a lot. I have gone from feeling good to feeling that my self-confidence has disappeared. Every day I have toiled, it's tough to deal with. I do not think people understand what it does to a person."

Deeply affected, Mørk considered withdrawing from the 2017 World Championships in December.

She didn't, and finished the tournament as top scorer on 66 goals, but Norway were beaten by France in the final.

Mørk battles with France's Beatrice Edwige during the World Championship final on 17 December, 2017 in Hamburg. (Photo by Oliver Hardt/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Not long afterwards, she ruptured her cruciate knee ligament while playing a league match for Győri.

And then her six-year relationship with Norway international footballer Stefan Strandberg ended.

"It is said that time heals all wounds," she told NTB in May 2018, "and maybe it does. But this is my everyday life now. These are difficult times, I am actually a positive person.

"I don't know if I've become a stronger person, but I have been exposed to a lot and have had to work with myself more than before. I still do, but I would not recommend anyone to be Nora Mørk right now."

But just a few months later she had worked herself out of that dark place and was looking to a brighter future.

"I discovered that I was 26 years old and unhappy. It forced me to figure out how I want to live my life and be as a person. I want to live a life with a lot of joy." - Nora Mørk to NTB in May 2018

4. Why Mørk returned home to Norway

In 2019, Mørk decided to move on from Győri and lifted by attention from five of the best clubs in Europe.

She eventually decided to join Romanian side CSM Bucuresti play alongside Serbian star Andrea Lekic and Romania's legendary Cristina Neagu.

But injuries intervened with Mørk playing just 30 minutes in a frustrating and difficult season.

Things got worse in June 2020 when Mørk revealed to Norway's TV2 that her mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer and she needed to move home.

She signed with Vipers Kristiansand to link up with fellow national team stars Katrine Lunde and Heidi Løke.

5. The Nora Mørk redemption at EHF Euro 2020

When you understand everything that she's been through, Nora Mørk's performance at EHF Euro 2020 was little short of miraculous.

Plenty of voices in Norway said that she was finished, that she should retire, that her body couldn't handle it any more.

Mørk took 70 shots in the tournament and scored 52 goals, 13 more than second-placed Jovanka Radicevic. She finished as tournament top-scorer and All-Star right back.

After winning the semi-final against Denmark she was in tears.

"After tearing both cruciate ligaments in less than two years, nobody trusted me and I was the only one who did because I knew that one day I would come back,” she said.

That self-belief and refusal to give in makes her much more than simply a special talent.

6. The Nora Mørk-Stine Oftedal connection

Of course, Norway won the Euros because of a team effort.

But one connection was crucial for them - that between Mørk and Stine Brede Oftedal.

Sparks fly when they get together with the pair growing up through the Norwegian youth system and winning the 2009 European Junior Championship and the 2010 World Junior Championship.

They also played together in Hungary for Győri, Oftedal joining after the first of their three consecutive Champions League successes in 2017.

“It feels so great that she is back in the team," Oftedal told the EHF in Denmark after winning the tournament.

"She had been out for years – now she is back really strong, she proves how important she is for our team. It is simply great to have her back.

"Nora is a game changer we had missed for many years. We are grateful that she is okay again.” - Stine Oftedal

7. "Completing the Collection" at Tokyo 2020

Mørk has made no secret that she wants an Olympic gold medal to complete her collection.

Just before signing for Bucuresti CSM in 2019 she said, "I know that is not easy to change the club right the year before the Olympics, which is my big goal, but I needed new things, new directions and a fresh start. I am really looking for that."

Bronze at Rio 2016 wasn't enough for this serial winner. The following year she told Spanish outlet deportecienporcien, "I missed the gold in the Olympics. We didn’t reach it in Rio but Tokyo is for sure our big goal. My collection will be complete.

"It was a huge, huge, disappointment in Rio, of course… Someone would say, 'At least, you have a medal,' but for us it's not enough. We worked really hard, we wanted to get to the top, so that’s the main goal of the Norwegian team."

After proving that she's back to her best in Denmark, Mørk and Norway will go to Tokyo as favourites.

8. Nora Mørk is "kind of obsessed with jewellery"

But there's more to life than handball, so what might Norway's attacking genius do when she leaves the game behind?

She has given a few clues and has taken her creativity to other fields including designing her own line of jewellery.

Mørk even created a special ring with four precious stones representing her four Champions League triumphs, the first of those coming back in 2011 with Larvik HK.

“I am kind of obsessed with jewellery,” she told the EHF before Euro 2020.

“It was just a funny idea. Right now, it has four stones, but it has still room for more, plenty of space.”

So what's her favourite jewellery metal?

Gold, of course.