Nordic Nation: Prioritizing mental health and rediscovering passion with Hailey Swirbul

Rachel PerkinsFebruary 18, 2023

In this episode, we chat with Hailey Swirbul, who – at just 24 years old – has been competing at the top end of the sport for quite some time. A bronze medal in the 4 x 3.3k relay at the 2017 Junior World Championships in Soldier Hollow put Hailey – and relay teammates Julia Kern, Hannah Halvorsen, and Katherine Ogden – on the map in a big way in US Skiing. Hailey has gone on to spend the better part of the last four years racing on the World Cup, earning 48 World Cup starts and one individual podium in the 10k skate in Davos in 2020. She’s currently preparing for the upcoming World Championships in Planica, Slovenia, which starts on February 22nd. 

Following last year’s Beijing Olympics, Hailey opened up about the contrast in expectation versus reality in the Olympic experience, and how the high stress, high pressure environment of life in Europe, particularly in the lead-up to the Olympics, negatively impacted her mental health and felt increasingly unsustainable. She questioned whether she wanted to keep skiing at all, but eventually decided to keep at it, with a new approach. She took a full time engineering job in the summer, and decided to forego period one and two on the World Cup, racing the SuperTour and US Nationals domestically instead. 

Hailey Swirbul enjoys her time in the leader’s chair after a solid performance in the 10k skate in Davos in December 2021. (Photo: NordicFocus)

As we discuss, this approach has rejuvenated her love for the sport and her motivation for the training and sacrifices it requires. And, it’s contributed to an outstanding season of racing, both domestically and internationally. She remains the SuperTour Leader as of recording, having earned a spot on the podium in all but one event, and swept all four events at the National Championships in Houghton, MI in early January. She seamlessly transitioned back onto the World Cup in Les Rousses, FRA where she raced into the semifinal of the classic sprint, followed by a top-20 result the following day in the 20k mass start classic. She qualified for the sprint heats again the following weekend in Toblach, ITA, was 26th in the 10k free the next day, and capped off the long weekend by scrambling for the US women’s relay team, which ended the day in bronze medal standing.

Thanks for listening, and thanks to Concept2 for supporting this podcast. 

Hailey Swirbul pushes to the finish of the 10 k individual start classic during the 2022 Olympic Winter Games. (Photo: NordicFocus)

Rachel Perkins

Rachel is an endurance sport enthusiast based in the Roaring Fork Valley of Colorado. You can find her cruising around on skinny skis, running in the mountains with her pup, or chasing her toddler (born Oct. 2018). Instagram: @bachrunner4646

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