Charlotte Kalla. Ida Ingemarsdotter. Those two names in first and second in Sweden’s first International Ski Federation (FIS) race of the season — the women’s 5-kilometer classic in Bruksvallarna — were more or less expected.
But Sofia Henriksson in third? The 21-year-old Swede hadn’t raced in nearly a year, coming off a hand injury and eating disorder. Leading up to U23 World Championships last season, she had been told she was “too thin and not allowed to go,” she wrote on her blog. “It seemed at first that everything collapsed.”
Yet on Friday, she finished 29.8 seconds behind 2015 world champion Kalla, the winner in 12:18.6. Another Swedish-national team member, Ingemarsdotter was 25.6 seconds back in second and 4.2 seconds ahead of Henriksson in third.
While Ingemarsdotter held off Henriksson for the lead late in the race, Kalla ultimately topped them both, leading at every checkpoint. By 1.4 k, Kalla was already 12.5 seconds faster than Ingemarsdotter. At 3 k, she was nearly 25 seconds up on Ingemarsdotter in second. Meanwhile, their teammate Hanna Falk sat in third, but Henriksson edged Falk in the second half of the race. Henriksson finished 1.9 seconds ahead of Falk — who placed fourth — for her first podium since placing second in the Bruksvallarna 5 k classic last year.
After the race, Henriksson wrote a blog with the English title: “Comeback”.
“There are many emotions that move inside me right now,” she began, according to a translation. “Above all, I feel joy and thanks largely to be back [racing]. Today’s race was my first since the middle of January. The 10 months outside racing have been a journey for me with both ups and downs and many emotional challenges.”
Her main focus had been to feel good on skis. Despite a tremendous amount of nerves in her first international start since December at the Davos World Cup last year, she felt she succeeded at that.
“I also got frequent updates on how I was doing in relation to the other skiers, but then many of the really [fast] girls started behind me, it was initially difficult to assess the splits,” Henriksson explained.
She never imagined placing in the top three.
“It was only a short while after the finish I could rejoice over my third place, a position I before could only dream about,” she added.
Most importantly, this result gave her hope for this season. “I’ve found it’s important to maintain good balance and also keep the focus on training,” she wrote.
As for Kalla, Swedish women’s coach Mattias Persson told Aftonbladet she is “better trained than ever.”
Kalla, 28, led a Swedish sweep of the top 15. Sixty-four women finished the 5 k, representing either Sweden, Norway, Slovenia, Croatia, or Great Britain.
Alex Kochon (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the former managing editor at FasterSkier. She spent seven years with FS from 2011-2018, and has been writing, editing, and skiing ever since. She's making a cameo in 2020.