Welcome to World Cup Windup, where we check in with the top-10 teams from last year’s FIS Cross Country World Cup tour before the season starts with the Ruka Triple in Kuusamo, Finland, on Nov. 24.
Overall in Nations Cup Last Year: Second
Women’s Ranking 2016-2017: Second
Men’s Ranking 2016-2017: Third
Stina Nilsson, second in the Sprint Cup and fourth in the World Cup overall; Hanna Falk, third in the Sprint Cup; Marcus Hellner, who finished sixth in the World Cup overall; Charlotte Kalla, ninth overall; Calle Halfvarsson, who won two World Cups; and Jens Burman and Jonna Sundling, the runner-up and fourth-ranked skiers in the for the World Cup U23 standings. Plus, 2014 Olympic team sprint bronze (soon-to-be-silver) medalists Emil Jönsson and Teodor Peterson, and Ida Ingemarsdotter, who teamed up with Nilsson for silver in the same event in 2014.
Sweden’s wily and bold distance specialist, Johan Olsson. Olsson announced his retirement in April at age 37 after winning back-to-back World Championships 50 k titles in 2013 and 2015, and contributing to Swedish relay gold at the 2010 and 2014 Olympics. “I have spent 15 years trying to realize my sporting dreams,” he explained at the time. “Now I will be able to realize completely different dreams, and I will be able to be a much more present dad.”
The Swedish team had a sprint race in late October in Idre, on a course made to resemble the profile of the 2018 Olympic sprint course in PyeongChang, South Korea. Some athletes were away at an altitude training camp, but Hanna Falk dominated the women’s sprint over Maja Dahlqvist and Linn Sömskar. Calle Halfvarsson won the qualifier but fell in the final; instead, Teodor Peterson edged Oskar Andersson in a tight finish.
Other than that, most of the top athletes have not raced yet. National team member Emma Wiken won a season-opening race in Bruksvallarna, Sweden, this past weekend. “It felt good! I chose to compete here today because I usually feel that it takes a couple races for me to get started,” she told Swedish media.
Back at that early sprint race in Idre, Emil Jönsson sat out because of back pain.
Despite flashes of undeniable brilliance, Calle Halfvarsson’s career has been plagued by gaps in the race results because he has often been sick mid-season. This year he had an operation to fix his sinuses and hopes that it will allow him to race at the top of the field all season. “I hope I’ve found the solution,” he said. “I feel a difference. I have kept myself healthy.”
Stina Nilsson, the most successful Swede last season, talked about how she has dealt with the fame that has gathered around her in the last three years since her breakthrough on the World Cup. “The attention itself is not a driving force for me, and sometimes it can be tough to handle,” she said on the Swedish podcast Ur spår. “It’s a thing I have a bad conscience about: I don’t have the patience I want to, when people come up and want to talk cross-country skiing with me. As I breathe and live in my ski bubble for so many hours a day, I want to make some breathing holes — I have to be just human Stina, where I can focus only on myself.”
Nilsson and Charlotte Kalla were both among the top ten most talked-about athletes in Swedish media last year. No male cross-country skiers were on the list, which hit gender equality (five men and five women) for the first time.
Kalla, meanwhile, has decided to skip the Swedish national team’s pre-Olympic training camp in Sapporo, Japan, and prepare instead in Seiser Alm, Italy, at altitude. Who else will be there? Marit Bjørgen, who is in turn skipping the Norwegian team’s pre-Olympic camp. Kalla noted that the two have discussed that they will both be training in the same place and that they will undoubtedly run into each other on the trails. “I really hope we can help each other,” Kalla said.
Best Social Media Presence:
To get caught up from last season requires a video clip. Charlotte Kalla has a reputation for being pretty no-nonsense, but she made a parody music video of Adele’s hit song “Hello” (in this case, “Kalla”) with Robin Bryntesson for the Norwegian comedy-ski commentary series “Helt Ramm.”
But on to how to stay current on the Swedish team. As has been the case for quite some time, Sweden’s first couple of skiing Anna Haag (Instagram / Twitter) and Emil Jonssön (Instagram / Twitter) have among the best-curated social media presences out there. Haag in particular posts regularly and provides shots of her daily life, Swedish culture, herself with her husband, and the rest of the Swedish team.
Stina Nilsson also has a beautiful, artistic Instagram page.