Scan Magazine | Cover Feature | Charlotte Kalla
Charlotte Kalla Sweden’s queen of skis In 2015, she became the first Swedish woman to win individual goals in both the Olympic Games and the World Cup. As she gears up for yet another season in the cross-country skiing tracks, Scan Magazine speaks to Charlotte Kalla, 29, about integrity, learning to trust herself and the madness of winning Tour de Ski. By Linnea Dunne | Photos: Nils Jakobsson
“Charlotte Kalla leaves the national team”, the Swedish sports headlines declared in April this year. The reports read like obituaries; it was as if the country was in shock, maybe even in mourning. Then the commentary began: was it really the right decision? Was it fair on her team? Worse: could it be the worst decision she had ever made? “It takes a lot of work and effort not to take people’s opinions personally, but it was important for me to be able to stand for what I was doing,” says the Swedish skier. “Of course it was hard to say no to spending all that time with the other girls in the team, who I got on with so well; it makes for a very special bond when you travel and spend so much time together. But I wanted to make sure that I’d tried everything, didn’t want to have to wonder how it would have been. I felt ready.” It seems Kalla knew her own mind from an early age. Her grandad brought her to her first ever ski training and she says she knew fairly quickly that skiing was her thing. “It was all very exciting in the beginning, having this world that was all my own, which my mum and dad didn’t know. It was my grandad who got to help me wax the skis and I remember really liking that thing of not having to rush anything, always being patient,” she recalls. “I think I was fairly driven from the get-go, but it was when I was around nine that I really knew. I started playing bas32 | Issue 93 95 | October December 2016 2016
ketball because all my friends did, but I knew there and then that I was going to be a skier – that was serious.”
Writing skiing history Indeed it was. Kalla made her World Cup debut in 2007 in Sapporo, Japan, aged 19, after competing internationally at a junior level. She finished as best Swede in the skiathlon in seventh place, and went on to grab fifth place in the ten-kilometre individual. The following year, she wrote skiing history during the final phase of Tour de Ski. 54.4 seconds behind Finnish Virpi Kuitunen at the bottom of a long, steep uphill finish, she started catching up slowly but surely. Live commentator and Swedish former skiing legend Gunde Svan could not contain his excitement as Kalla took the lead with less than a kilometre to go and outclassed her rival, winning Tour de Ski. “Nothing will ever seem as crazy as that,” she laughs. “I really surprised myself in the competition, but nothing could have prepared me for what followed. I remember the moment I arrived back at Arlanda after the tour. There were photographers, press everywhere – it was chaos.” She returned a hero, and that year she won the prestigious Jerringpriset, a prize awarded by popular vote for the best sports accomplishment every year, in addition to being nominated for Bragdguldet, a similar accolade awarded by the national newspaper Svenska Dagbladet.