The woman from Uddevalla, Sandra Hansson, 27, won the Vasaloppet women's race after a superlatively strong finish where she managed to pole away from VÃ¥lÃ¥dalens Jenny Hansson (SWE), who had led the 90 km classic up until Eldris.
Seven years ago Sandra was ranked first in the upper junior class of Swedish ski sport. Together with Lina Andersson, Carin Holmberg and Mariana Handler, Sandra won a gold medal in the Junior World Championship relay, and she also won individual gold in the Junior Swedish Championships in the 30 km and in sprint.
But that summer she experienced problems with her stomach after a training camp in SognefjÃ¤ll, Norway. Despite medication and rest she never quite recovered and all attempts at a comeback ended with continual setbacks.
Sandra Hansson was forced to give up her ski career in 2001. Instead she channeled her energy into her studies.
“I took some exercise during my studies, went to the gym, did some spinning, but no ski training at all for four years. Christmas 2005 the family was in IdrefjÃ¤ll, and there I did do a ski training session. It felt surprisingly good – and that good feeling, just that was really great!”
In winter 2006 Sandra took part in some minor competitions in Dalsland. These went better than expected and last winter she came in fourth in Vasaloppet, outdistanced by five minutes by winner Elin Ek, IFK Mora SK. Noteworthy now, perhaps, is that Sandra Hansson was in fact leading the women's class in Risberg then!
And this year she is back as a winner.
“It feels just wonderful, terrific just to experience all this,” says Sandra, in one interview after another with the laurel wreath over her shoulders, and with Kransmas Joakim EngstrÃ¶m by her side.
Sandra was just over two minutes behind Jenny Hansson at the Evertsberg checkpoint after 47 kilometers.
“My skis froze fast on the first slope and then I was worried that I'd not even make it to the finish. It was very heavy going over the marshes but as time went on everything seemed to get lighter and easier, and I began to get a little scent of victory.”
Sandra Hansson took 1 minute 40 seconds from Jenny Hansson between Oxberg and HÃ¶kberg, where she saw Jenny's yellow bib 10 seconds in front.
“And then, clearly, I got masses of energy and felt really quite calm. I skied along with Jenny and prepared myself for a spurt. And I went for that before the finish! A matchless experience just winning!”says Sandra.
She hopes the Vasaloppet victory will mean a big step forward and allow her to concentrate as she would wish to on cross country skiing.
“Today I am working three days a week, but I'd like to put in even more!”
Sandra lives and works in Oslo. Her parents are her main support.
Jenny Hansson was none too happy with her second place.
“My skis worked well up to Evertsberg, but after that I had to slave away awfully hard. I gritted my teeth and went with Sandra when she came along, but I didn't have the strength to reply to her spurt. It's a bit sore to lose at the finish again.”
Last weekend Jenny was third in TjejVasan, and very close to winning. But her second place in Vasaloppet brings her closer to the lead in the FIS Marathon Cup. With her 80 new points she is now only 20 points behind the leading Russian Tatiana Jambaeva before the two concluding races, Engadin Ski Marathon and the Norwegian Birkebeinerrennet.
Third to finish was Sumiko Yokoyama, Japan, and fourth, last year's winner, Elin Ek, IFK Mora SK.