Nations Cup Ranking: 3rd (6793 pts)
Men: 3rd (3535 pts)
Women: 3rd (3258 pts)
2010/2011 A Team
What You May Have Missed Last Season
Hanna Falk coming from absolute obscurity to lead a strong Swedish women’s sprint team. For the average or even the dedicated World Cup fan, there would have been no reason to know Falk’s name before last fall. Prior to the start of the season, she had just one World Cup start, which was an uninspiring, out-of-the points finish, and some good-but-unremarkable results at two World Junior Championships.
But after three World Cup starts in two weekends before Christmas, Falk had a victory, a second place and a top 10 finish, shaking up the predictable women’s sprint standings. She never looked back, making the final twice more, as well as collecting another win on her way to a fifth-place finish in the sprint rankings. In her eight career individual World Cup starts, she has earned two wins, which is pretty darn impressive.
While sprinting has long been an area where the Swedes have excelled, as Bjoern Lind and Peter Larsson have shown, Emil Joensson is cut from the same cloth. In winning the Sprint Cup, the man failed to make the final in just a single sprint race this past year, in Oslo. So long as he steered clear of those pesky Russians, Joensson was a good bet to make the podium every time he hit the start line.
What You Should Know For This Season
The Swedes have arguably the best all-around team on the circuit, as one might expect from a top three country.
In distance events, they have greater male skiing depth than Norway. Marcus Hellner, Johan Olsson, Daniel Richardsson and Anders Soedergren showed at the Olympics that Sweden is no longer playing second fiddle – and so long as they don’t pull a Brink (make sure you have the sound on – we need announcers like that here in North America), they will be Norway’s greatest competition in Oslo come February.
The only hole in the line up is women’s distance skiing. While the return of Charlotte Kalla – arguably the best skater on the circuit – to top form will be an answer to Marit Bjoergen, Kalla doesn’t have much help. Anna Haag can chip in on distance, but it’s a long way down to Magdalena Pajala after that.
They have greater consistency in sprinting than just about everyone. Emil Joensson is as good as they come, and Jesper Modin is a tower of power, standing at 6’7. Hanna Falk and Ida Ingemarsdotter finished fifth and sixth in the sprint cup, leading a collection of young, strong sprint women. The Swedes had a skier in every single final in a sprint on the World Cup last year, which is the only way to keep pace with the Norwegians and Russians.
Anders Soedergren has to be the most unlucky skier on the circuit. He has a lengthy track record of illness and injury, and this summer he got into an altercation with an off-duty police officer while rollerskiing that resulted in a fairly serious injury. Also, his house burned down this fall, luckily without him in it. And the International Ski Federation is taking away his favorite race, the 50 k individual start!
While Soedergren seems to have nothing but bad luck, his team mate Marcus Hellner has elevated his skiing to the next level. After taking a few lumps early in his career, Hellner is now on track, and is considered one of Petter Northug’s main rivals – especially after their poker showdown in Las Vegas this past summer.
The retirement of Anna Olsson, who went out with a bang in the Stockholm city sprint, is no big deal, as there are loads of young Swedish sprinters itching to get into the action. While the Norwegians are pressing the panic button over the lack of women in their system, the Swedes have no such problems.
Also, in case you were still holding out hope, Charlotte Kalla is taken. Anders Svanebo, an up and coming Swedish skier is looking for a spot on the World Cup so the two can hang out. And Hanna Falk is apparently not interested, either.
Who You Should Watch
Hanna Brodin. Brodin finished 11th in her first World Cup of the season, and cracked the final in the Stockholm city sprint. She looked a little out of place in her non-national team suit in the same sprint final in Stockholm where Olsson retired, and she did get blown away, but so would just about anyone else with that field.
Brodin has an excellent track record as a junior sprinter, owning a silver medal from World Junior Championships in 2009 as well as gold from 2010.