“This could have ended really awful. I am shocked and scared,” Anders Södergren told the Swedish newspaper Sportbladet.
The cop, who was not in uniform and not on duty, argued that the Swedes were violating the Austrian traffic codes that outlaw roller skiing on public roads.
Sportbladet’s reporter on location said that the team had completed about half of their workout when the incident occurred. Suddenly, Marcus Hellner and Johan Olsson, who were leading the group, made a sharp turn to find out why their teammates were slowing down. They had done so because a man had entered into the busy road and started yelling at them. Södergren was right behind his teammate Jens Eriksson.
“You can’t stop in 15 feet; we were doing at least 30 kilometers per hour. So when we got close, the guy pushed Jens in the side. Jens fell into me and I fell into the guy’s car, which he had parked in the middle of the walking trail. No sane person would push another person like that,” Södergren told Sportbladet.
Demanded an Explanation
The Swedish skiers were angry at the off-duty officer. Hellner yelled at him, and the cop yelled back.
“The worst part is that he lied. He said we ran into him,” Södergren said, after he had collected himself from the initial shock.
Sportbladet’s reporter attempted to speak with the officer, who refused to give his name.
“I was just defending myself. They came straight at me, I was simply shielding myself. The pedestrian path is for foot traffic. I am not here on duty, but as a private person, and I was just parked to talk with a coworker,” said the man, who was very agitated. Apparently, roller skiers must have irritated the officer for a long time. He said they’ve had problems with roller skiers for 30 years, and he emphasized that roller skiing on public roads is illegal in Ramsau.
The Swedish national team is well aware of the law that outlaws roller skiing on public roads, but nearly all the athletes in Ramsau roller ski on the roads. According to Swedish national team coach Joakim Abrahamsson, the cops rarely enforce the rule. “We all know it’s not allowed, but this kind of behavior is ridiculous, regardless,” Södergren told Sportbladet.
Södergren dislocated his shoulder in the incident, and Eriksson suffered some scrapes. However, the entire team was shaken up from the episode.
From Langd.se, October 16, 2010. By Kjell Erik Kristiansen, translation by Inge Scheve
Inge is FasterSkier's international reporter, born and bred in Norway. A cross-country ski racer and mountain runner, she also dabbles on two wheels in the offseason. If it's steep and long, she loves it. Follow her on Twitter: @IngeScheve.