2009-2010 Nations Cup Ranking: 3rd (6793 pts)
2010-2011 Nations Cup Ranking: 2nd (7660 pts)
Men: 3rd (4067 pts)
Women: 2nd (3593 pts)
2011/2012 World Cup Team
What You May Have Missed Last Season
The Swedes continued to churn out some of the best sprinters on the circuit, headlined by two massive performances at World Championships.
While most of the Swedish sprint buzz usually surrounds Emil Joensson, it was Markus Hellner’s lung-busting, thigh-tearing, man-on-a-mission dethronement of Petter Northug on the Norwegian superstars home turf in Oslo which was unforgettable.
Not to be out-done, Charlotte Kalla laid a beat-down of her own, dominating the final leg of the Team Sprint at World Championships in Oslo. Best known for her outstanding skate abilities, Kalla cranked out some massive double-pole power to leave Finland and Norway eating Swedish dust.
It goes without saying that Emil Joensson is the greatest pure sprinter on the circuit at the moment. His detractors will claim that his lack of Olympic or World Championship titles point to his inability to perform on the big stage, but FasterSkier is willing to cut him a little slack.
Mostly because the Swede has won back-to-back Sprint Cup titles, as well as winning ten World Cups (Stage or otherwise) in that span, some of which in incredibly dramatic (or heart-breaking if you’re Canadian) fashion.
While their sprinters are great, FasterSkier would be remiss if we failed to mention the distance skiing ability the Swedes displayed.
Daniel Rickardsson led the men’s squad, finishing third in the World Cup Overall, skyrocketing up from his previous-best of 17th. The late-blooming Rickardsson (he is 29 years old) is something of a middle-distance classic-skiing specialist, picking up three World Cup medals in either 10 or 15 k classic races.
Meanwhile, Anna Haag continued her quiet ascent of the standings, finishing 11th in the Overall standings in just her fourth season on the circuit.
What You Need To Know for This Season
Emil Joensson, sprint master and one speedy bugger, has suffered a costly thigh injury, taking him out of training for “weeks” – it’s unclear as to how extensively the injury will affect his race season, but the reigning Sprint Cup Champion might start out a tad slower than normal.
Luckily for him, he’s still dating Anna Haag, and the two Swedes hosted Kikkan Randall and Liz Stephen this summer for some top-notch training and fun. And if FIS ever introduces the power-couple Team Sprint, Haag isn’t surewhether she and Joensson could take Canadians Devon Kershaw and Chandra Crawford.
Jesper Modin went to seven sprint finals this year, but failed to produce a single World Cup medal – instead, he finished last five times. If he can stretch out his endurance to include that final heat, he could become almost as unstoppable as Joensson. He is also the most imposing man on the circuit, standing at 6’7, and just over 200 lbs. He also enjoys racing Volkswagen Beetles – seriously, that’s not a joke.
With everyone and their grandmother focusing on the Tour de Ski this seaon, Kalla will have a hard time finding the shape which saw her win the second running of the event in 2007-2008. But she’s been training hard, and has turned in some good results in the off-season, including dominating an orienteering race, winning the FIS Rollerski World Championships this summer, as well as winning the first FIS tune-up race of the season in Bruksvallarna last weekend.
Sweden also had two notable retirements, as former sprint standout Mats Larsson stepped away, as did Lina Andersson on the women’s side. Both retirements were slightly surprising – Andersson is just 30 years old, and still has an incredible amount of talent, but health problems have limited her success since winning a gold medal at the 2006 Olympics in Torino. Larsson, a 2006 Olympic bronze-medal winner, and 32 years old hasn’t seen a massive drop in his abilities, but just felt it was time to call it a career.
Who You Should Watch
Jennie Oeberg is the next big thing. The 22 year old sprinter saw limited World Cup action last year, and qualified for three sprints, including a top 10 finish in Liberec, Czech Republic. Her focus was on Under-23 World Championships, where she managed to finish third in the sprint, ahead of team mate Hanna Brodin.
Most importantly, Sweden has a track record of producing talented young sprinters (see: both Hanna’s, Falk and Brodin) and Oeberg will be the given the chance to break out in 2011-2012.