Thank you, Norway!

TURIN, Italy -- Sara Renner owes Bjornar Haakensmoen one silver medal, one ski pole and one huge hug.

"She didn't give me my ski pole back," the Norwegian coach jokingly complained after handing Renner a replacement pole to help carry her and Beckie Scott to a silver medal for Canada in cross-country skiing.

"Ah, I don't want it back. I want her to keep it. It would be a good souvenir," he said.

"We have lots of ski poles. But tell her she owes me a great big hug."

The Albertans won the first surprise medal of the Torino 2006 Olympics for Canada thanks to Haakensmoen, a Norwegian coach, who watched Renner bust her left ski pole during the sprint relay finals as she passed his position on course.

As a result of handing her his pole, combined with a massive move by Scott to haul in the lead pack again after the tag, produced a pair of Olympic moments for the ages.

But the gesture likely cost his Norwegian skiers a medal as they finished in fourth place.

"Some countries don't give poles to their opposition. That is bullshit," he said.

"Our policy in Norway is that we should give poles or skis to everyone. We talked about it at our team meeting the night before. We are a country which believes in fair play. I like to be somebody of fair sportsmanship."

Haakensmoen deserves to be as big a hero in Canada today as Canmore's Renner and Vermilion's Scott. Somebody send him over a Canadian outfit to wear for the rest of the Olympics. Get him an autograph from Wayne Gretzky.

CONGRATULATIONS

Have Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who called Scott and Renner to offer his congratulations on behalf of the country, call Haakensmoen, too. "I saw it happen," said the Norwegian. "It was almost crushing."

Renner said that's one way to phrase it.

"It was like being in a canoe with no paddle.

"I was in shock. Then I looked up and the Norwegian coach is handing me his pole.

"What he did resulted in the best outcome from something really, really bad.

"I was told that 25 years ago a Swede broke a pole and a Norwegian coach wouldn't give him his pole and it became a moral issue after that," said Renner, the 29-year-old who is married to giant slalom skier Thomas Grandi.

"I'm told this will be the Norwegian coach's last Olympics, that he's retiring after this, so maybe this is a good way for him to go out," she added.

They should put the pole in Canada's Olympic Hall of Fame. "It's a men's pole and it's really long," said Renner. "But it got the job done. I was able to make it back to Beckie without losing too much time."

Renner said she couldn't believe when it happened. Almost like when, two hours after the race, she stood outside the venue waiting for Scott to come out of drug testing when she looked around and exclaimed:"Oh, my God, that's my dad peeing behind a tree!"

BREAK THE POLE

Sepp Renner said that was better than messing his pants, which is what he felt like doing when he saw his daughter break the pole.

"That was incredible. It's the Olympics. I thought 'Oh, my God, she's broke her bloody pole. She's in front at the Olympics and she's going to lose a medal because her bloody pole breaks!' "

His daughter said she has no real recall of the moment when the pole did break.

"I don't even know what happened. I just know that all of a sudden I was kind of paddling with one arm."

Scott said she did have a moment of disbelief before Haakensmoen produced the pole. "I did have a brief flash of 'Oh no, not now, not here.' In a way it was a huge setback. It meant a little extra double poling for me at the start of my leg. But fortunately ... it wasn't insurmountable."

Renner said the pole the Norwegian produced meant nothing without Scott getting back in the race.

"Beckie skied like a tiger. When she saw the pole was broken, that really spurred her on. She had a substantial gap to make up. I guess I just made sure she got a lot of exercise today."

The question they may be asking themselves for the rest of their lives is if the pole hadn't broken, would they have won gold?

"I don't think we can say that for sure. Maybe the superhuman effort I had to come up with to get back took away something extra I might have had left in my tank at the end," said Scott, the gold medal winner from the Salt Lake 2002 Olympics.

"It definitely cost time. I was leading and dropped to fourth place. But it's hard to know," said Renner. "We'll never know."

One thing they do know is that they wouldn't own an Olympic silver medal today if Bjornar Haakensmoen hadn't handed her his pole.