The Swedish news outlet SVT announced this morning that Frida Karlsson, Sweden’s rising junior phenom, has been pulled from competition after not meeting team health criteria during a routine check last week. Karlsson raced the World Cup opening series of races in Ruka, placing 40th in the classic sprint, 11th in the 10 k classic, finishing 8th overall after the final 10 k skate stage.
Last season the 20-year-old won the 5-kilometer classic and 10 k skate at the World Junior Ski Championships in Lahti, Finland and turned heads with a second place finish in the 10 k freestyle at the World Ski Championships in Seefeld, Austria, challenging Norway’s dominant distance champion Therese Johaug. Karlsson also placed third in the 30 k skate amongst veteran athletes and skied the second leg of the 4 x 5-kilometer relay that kept spectators on the edge of their seats as Sweden upset the Norwegian favorites.
“From a health perspective, we have to make the decision that she pulls back on everything for a period of time,” national team doctor Magnus Oscarsson explained through translation to SVT Sport. “You have to have a balanced load and recovery, and it has not been sufficiently balanced lately. She has to step back.”
Oscarsson did not specify which parameters of the health criteria Karlsson did not meet.
“Frida is very determined and ambitious and wants very much with her sport. It has simply become a little too intense and too much. She now has to take a step back to regain balance. Health is always more important than sports performance,” Oscarsson continued.
Though it is unclear whether the circumstances are related, Karlsson is the second top World Cup athlete to be removed from competition due to impaired health. Overall World Cup champion Ingvild Flugstad Østberg has missed the first two weekends of competition after not meeting national team minimum body mass index and bone density requirements.
“Right now, I’m very sad and disappointed,” Karlsson said to SVT. “It is easy to to stress yourself out, but you have to see it long term. I will do everything I can to be back in the competition track, as I want to keep [competing] for many years to come.”
For the time being, Karlsson will have a reduced training load to focus on rest and recovery. She will follow up regularly with her doctors to ensure her health is progressing and will be allowed to compete once she is deemed fit. It is unclear how long the recovery process will take. The national team doctors and coaches are focused on Karlsson’s long term health, rather than her performance or rank this season.
“We can’t speculate about that at the moment,” Oscarsson said of her return. “Frida needs to get some peace and quiet in order to focus on the right things and not aim to be back to any specific competition.”