FasterSkierDecember 6, 2008

Kristina Strandberg races for the Saab-Salomon Factory Team. More information on the Saab-Salomon Factory Team can be found at http://www.enjoywinter.com This article first appeared in Ski Post – http://www.skipost.com

Lars Flora, Ivan Babikov, Kristina Strandberg, Andrey Golovko. These were all members of the Saab Salomon Factory Team, the coolest team to my brother and I growing up. I only knew these names from seeing them on top of the result sheets. I idolized these ski racers. I held them in such high regard that I never really thought of them as normal adults.

In Aspen last year I saw Lars getting ready for the classic race. It was a shock to me seeing someone so good getting ready for his race just like all the juniors around him. I wanted to introduce myself but I was too nervous. Five minutes later I ran into the eventual race winner Andrea Golovko. Our coach had looked up his FIS profile that morning and told us about his Olympic and world cup results. I wanted to say hello and shake his hand but was again too scared.

It is now eight months later and my first year out of junior competitive skiing. I was accepted on to the Saab/Salomon Factory Team in the fall. I was so excited that I would get to wear the same race suit as my idols.

My first Factory Team function would be going to West Yellowstone for the ski camp held over Thanksgiving. I showed up at the Holiday Inn for the first night of camp and I saw Lars and Kristina unloading their car in the parking lot. I was still too nervous to go and introduce myself. Later that night I was introduced to the team and we received our new gear. It was surreal getting top of the line Salomon skis, boots and clothes. This was gear I’d seen in magazines but never thought I would actually own.

Andrey Golovko moved into my hotel room to be one of my roommates for the week. I was quite nervous that I would be staying with someone so fast. He kept me entertained the whole trip. One of the goofiest and funniest guys I have ever met. I went skiing with him the next day and learned how to ski classic “like a Russian,” laughing the whole time. In the next couple of days, Kristina Trygstad-Saari and I became sick, and being a good roommate Andrey said that after his afternoon run he would come back with something that would help. He arrived an hour later carrying a bulb of garlic. He said “This is the best for getting well.” So at dinner Kristina and I ate raw garlic and Andrey even brought some down for us just in case we forgot. That night our room did not smell so good but we were optimistic that it was going to make us better. After the classic race our room was a little down. Kristina Trygsad-Saari was still too sick to race, and Andrey and I did not ski nearly as fast as we wanted to. Andrey grabbed a piece of paper and faked making a sign for our door and said “Looozer’s Room” We had a good laugh and that lightened the mood. That next day after the skate race when we all skied faster than we thought, he made a new sign for our door, “Viiiiinners Room!” I like this guy.

I was first down to breakfast the next morning, eating alone, when Kristina and Lars came and sat next to me. I told them how they were my idols when I was a junior. They laughed and Lars said “Well, now you are hangin’” I am hangin’ with my ski racing idols and it could not be more fun. Kristina Strandberg still finds it hard to believe that all the junior girls on my home team knows who she is, and that people find Lars to be a hero. So next time you see your heroes out skiing, remember they are just normal people, putting their boots on one at a time. Go and say hello and that you enjoy watching them ski. They will be as happy as you are.

Editors Note: Tad Elliott finished 5th in the skate SuperTour race and Andrey Golovko finished 7th – they certainly were “Viiiiiiiinners”!


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