This year’s annual International Ski Federation (FIS) Congress included the selection for the 2015 Nordic World Championships. Held in Turkey, the finalists included Sweden, Finland, Poland and Germany. Sweden was smart. They brought along some of their top athletes to be part of the presentation to bring Worlds to Falun. Nothing like hearing it straight from an athlete’s mouth. It definitely worked, because Sweden beat their key rivals to become the hosts for 2015. Key in that presentation was Olympic medallist Anna Haag. She took a short break from her training to talk with Atomic’s Rick Halling about the World Championships, and what it means for the event to come to Sweden.
Rick Halling: Congratulations on winning the bid for the 2015 World Championships. I watched your presentation for Sweden, and I watched Justyna Kowalczyk’s presentation for Poland. It was obvious that the athletes who went to Turkey were not there simply because their federations told them to come. It was quite clear that the athletes truly cared about being the hosts for the World Championships. Why was it so important for you to bring the World
Championships to Sweden?
Anna Haag: I was born in the area, so for me it’s a dream come true, having a new world championship in my home region. I remember the last one, 1993, and I think that my interest in cross-country skiing grew just because of that. So, for many reasons, I really want to ski and have a championship in Sweden and in Dalarna (the region).
RH: Aren’t there also some major drawbacks with Worlds taking place in your own country? You have to admit that there is far more pressure on the home athletes than on the visiting teams. Swedish journalists can be pretty tough on Swedish athletes–don’t you think they will be even tougher when the event is at home?
AH: I’m pretty sure they’ll be tough, but that is also one of the things that makes it even more special and charming. If you can handle the pressure and take a medal at a championship in your home country, you’ve really made something special and a really, really fantastic memory for the rest of your life.
RH: Can you describe your role in representing Sweden at the FIS conference? Do you think you made much of a difference?
AH: I don’t know. But I think that we (me, Emil Joensson and Charlotte Kalla) helped a bit. We are young, and every one of us will ski (hopefully) in Falun, so everything that we said was true. We really wanted the championship to go to Sweden! And we did get it!
RH: You convinced the FIS representatives to hold the World Championships in Sweden. Now, persuade American masters that it will make for a great vacation to fly to Sweden and attend Worlds in 2015.
AH: Oh, that’s a hard one. But to see a ski competition “for real” is something really special. And in Falun 2015, there will be a lot of things to do besides just sport. Falun has a lot of culture and a great surrounding area, with a lot to do and see. I think it will be a great experience!
RH: One thing that prevents Americans from attending events like the World Championships is that they are concerned there will be no place for them to ski when they are there. There may be no trails for spectators or there will only be a very short loop open to the public. Will the Worlds in Falun be like that? Or, will average folk find plenty of nice and convenient trails to ski on between watching races?
AH: If it is a great winter, like the last one, there will be a lot of tracks and cozy trails around in the village and neighborhood.
RH: I have not seen a schedule yet, and I don’t know if there is one. But how many days between when the World Championships end and when the Vasaloppet takes place? Will that be a realistic option? Can tourists attend Worlds in Falun, stay in Sweden for a few more days and then be a part of the Vasaloppet?
AH: The management from the Vasaloppet said in Turkey that if Falun got the championships, they would have to move the date of the Vasaloppet for the very first time in history. Ever since the earliest days of this race, it has been held the first Sunday in March. If it is not rescheduled, the 50 K and the Vasaloppet will be on the same day. So let’s hope that the Americans can both watch the World Championships and ski in the Vasaloppet.
RH: Final question. Let’s say a visiting family goes for a nice ski in the morning, watches the races that afternoon, and then they are very hungry and want a traditional Swedish dinner that night. What do you recommend they order at one of Falun’s better restaurants?
AH: They should order elk and potato–grilled elk, or steaked elk. That’s my favorite!