Yesterday it was 0.4 seconds, today 0.7 – Calle Halfvarsson just can’t seem to pull out a win in Bruksvallarna, though he can get darn close.
In Saturday’s 15 k freestyle competition in the Swedish mountains, Halfvarsson was left in second place behind Fredrik Lindström, a World Championships medalist from Sweden’s biathlon team.
“I’m not surprised that Fredrik was so fast,” Halfvarsson told Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet. “He was second behind me once at a junior championships in Falun. He’s really good at skating… he would not be bad to have on a relay team.”
Lindström said that it was his first cross country race since he was a junior (in fact, his first FIS race since that 2008 championships in Falun).
“I’m in a bit of a shock actually,” he told Swedish newspaper Expressen, according to a translation. “It felt good to race…. but yes, it feels weird.”
Because he had no FIS points, Lindström had an early seed in the race. Some concluded must have been an advantage before the hundreds of racers skied over and degraded the snow. But Johan Olsson, yesterday’s winner in the 10 k classic, disagreed.
“One should not take anything away from him,” he told Aftonbladet. “I have been honestly beaten today.”
For Lindström, entering the competition was part of a deliberate strategy to prepare for this year’s biathlon season. He is in an unusual position in that Sweden’s two other stars, Olympic gold medalist Björn Ferry and two-time World Championships medalist Carl Johan Bergman, both retired at the end of last season.
Thus Lindström, despite being only 25 years old, finds himself as the most veteran member of his team and lost valuable training and race partners.
Tackling the ski field, he hopes, will make up for this in some sense.
“I was keen to do my best,” he told Expressen. “What I’ve had as a goal is to take the best shooters’ help and improve my shooting, and take the best skiers to improve my skiing.”
Yet he was humble, if teasing, when communicating with fans before the race.
“If you have nothing planned today, then I think you should watch the ski races in Bruksvallarna,” he tweeted.
Others were confident of his success: Ferry said that if Lindström didn’t make the top five, he’d eat his own hat.
Daniel Richardsson finished third, +6.0, with Martin Johansson and Olsson fourth and fifth, +20.7 and +22.0, respectively. Petr Novak of the Czech Republic was the only non-Swede to break into the top ten, finishing ninth.
Canadian Paralympic gold medalist Brian McKeever placed 45th, +2:33.
In the women’s 10 k freestyle, Charlotte Kalla came back from a big win in the 5 k classic with another victory, this time by 52 seconds over Maria Rydqvist. Anna Haag placed third for the second day in a row; former Colorado University standout Maria Graefnings placed fifth, just 15 seconds off the podium.
“I’m pretty confident in what I can do here,” Kalla told Aftonbladet. “But I had to work harder today. Yesterday was easier.
Racing continues in Bruksvallarna tomorrow with classic sprints.
Chelsea Little is FasterSkier's Editor-At-Large. A former racer at Ford Sayre, Dartmouth College and the Craftsbury Green Racing Project, she is a PhD candidate in aquatic ecology in the @Altermatt_lab at Eawag, the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology in Zurich, Switzerland. You can follow her on twitter @ChelskiLittle.