January 27, 2023

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  • Watch the World Cup in cross-country skiing from Lillehammer on TV 2 Direkte and tv 2 play From Friday at 10.30.

Johan Olsson (42) is particularly remembered for how he won the World Cup gold medal in the five-mile race in Val di Fiemi in 2013, when he found a way to beat Peter Northug’s five-mile king, by breaking off the field unusually early and walking alone. Leading mile after mile – and finally crossing the finish line first.

Olsson was for a time the king of the longer start races and led a golden era of Swedish men’s cross-country skiing alongside, among others, Markus Hellner, Anders Södergren, Daniel Rickardsson and Emil Johnson.

Then things went completely wrong for the Swedish men’s cross-country skiing. In 2015/16, the best Swedish player in the World Cup overall was as low as 30th, and since then no Swedish man has really asserted himself either there or in the tournament.

The last Swedish championship medal in men’s cross-country skiing was a bronze in the relay in Lahti in 2017.

Warning: Johan Olsson. Photo: Terje Pedersen/NTB
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warning

Johan Olsson now sees parallels between the generational change and decline in then-Swedish men’s cross-country skiing and Norwegian women’s cross-country skiing today.

– I think you can compare the situation in Norway for women now with the situation in the men’s team in Sweden when Hellner left, Johan Olsson tells Dagbladet and explains:

– Then he and I and Södergren and Johnson quit within a few years, and there was a little bit of talent on the way. Kali Halvarsson’s greatest talent has fallen backwards rather than moving forward in development. Now it definitely looks better again with William Boruma in the lead, but we’re a long way from winning gold in the relay, says the 42-year-old, who now works as a cross-country expert at Viaplay in Sweden.

Then something went wrong: Johan Olsson won the individual gold and here the bronze behind Peter Northog and Lukas Bauer in the Falun water course in 2015. Then the downturn began in the Swedish men's cross-country skiing.  Photo: Terje Bendiksby/NTB

Then something went wrong: Johan Olsson won the individual gold and here the bronze behind Peter Northog and Lukas Bauer in the Falun water course in 2015. Then the downturn began in the Swedish men’s cross-country skiing. Photo: Terje Bendiksby/NTB
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– a stranger

Sweden won Olympic gold in the relay in both 2014 and 2010 with Olsson in the lead. But now the Swedes have gone four full tournaments in a row without a single medal from the men’s team.

– Why was there a period of decline for the Swedish gentlemen when you and your golden generation resigned? What do you think is the reason for the downturn in Norwegian women’s cross-country skiing?

– This is a difficult question. I don’t know if I have an answer to that, because I was in the middle of a career myself. Part of it, of course, has to do with the talents you have and how many people choose to cross-country ski. Bjørgen and Johaug are of course unique and are not easily interchangeable. At the same time, we see that the Norwegian men’s team has succeeded in renewing itself, perhaps with the help of a good environment and a good system with good facilities, says the Swedish cross country champion and confirms:

– That is why it is strange that the Norwegian women’s cross-country skiing, which should have similar conditions to the men’s, is heading towards a weaker period – just as the Swedish men’s cross-country skiing is in serious stagnation, although the Swedish women’s cross-country skiing has developed greatly in the same period. And it happened without the help in terms of results from the biggest star Charlotte Calla in the past four years, Olson tells Dagbladet.

pattern: Marit Bjorgen crushed Frida Carlson in a duel at the stake in TV 2’s “Landskampen”. This made Heidi Wing smile. Reporter/Video: Øyvind Godø / Kristoffer Løkås
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The 42-year-old concludes:

– So I think it’s less about systems and access to knowledge than about individuals inspiring each other to work harder and be harder in order to reach the top. And that the team and the federation are building on that, but I could be wrong.

Olsson interviews Dagbladet and reflects on the challenges of Norwegian women’s cross-country skiing in light of what happened in Swedish men’s cross-country skiing, prior to the opening of the World Cup in Roka.

– Surprised

There, the Norwegian girls’ skiers did better than many had feared, with Tyrell Odnes and Wing taking third places and the overall team effort being good.

At the same time, Sweden was in a class of its own and had a Swedish double in all three races, with Frida Carlsson, Ebba Andersson, Emma Rebohm and Johanna Hagström. The Swedes pulled it off despite the fact that potential world champions like Jonna Sundling and Linn Svahn were missing out.

OPTUR: Terrell Odnes Wing was closest to Frida Karlsson and Ebba Andersson at the start of the chase on Sunday.  Photo: NTB Scanpix

OPTUR: Terrell Odnes Wing was closest to Frida Karlsson and Ebba Andersson at the start of the chase on Sunday. Photo: NTB Scanpix
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In other words, the Swedish women’s cross-country skiing has more of an ace up its sleeve, despite the fact that they dominated Roka. This means that even if Norwegian skating girls are a positive surprise, there is no doubt that Sweden has taken the throne from Norway on the women’s side.

When Dagbladet asked Olsson for his fresh thoughts on what happened at the World Cup opening in Roca, he said:

– I am also amazed at the results of the Norwegian ladies in Roca. Four out of the top eight and five out of the top eleven are pretty solid, even if we’re missing some of the supposed best, Olsson tells Dagbladet.

Good approach and old look: Heidi Wing.  Photo: Bjørn Langsem/Dagbladet

Good approach and old look: Heidi Wing. Photo: Bjørn Langsem/Dagbladet
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– Although the distance to Carlson and Anderson was great, I still thought that the Norwegians would have fought for the third place at the start of the chase, even with those who missed from the starting line. After all, it was names like Krista Pärmäkoski, Jessica Diggins, Katharina Hennig and Kerttu Niskanen that many Norwegians won over, notes the Swede.

The Cross-Country Ski World Cup in Lillehammer continues this weekend and is televised on 2 Direkte and tv 2 play From Friday at 10.30.

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