Europe 2003/2004

A Month in Sweden - Tim Retchford

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A Month in Sweden

When you go overseas for ski racing you hope to be able to do two things; ski and race. Not too much to ask normally, but seemingly it is this year in Sweden.

This year I am back in Borlange a small town north west of Stockholm. Although far from being the cultural epicenter of the country Borlange is home to some of the countries best skiers. Notable athletes include Mikael Ostberg winner of a sprint world cup last season, Daniel Tynell winner of the Vasaloppet, Martin Larsson a regular competitor in the world cup and recent bronze medalist in the relay, Peter Myllback a converted MTB racer and now elite skier and possibly the planets fastest double poler to name a few. Fortunately not only are these guys really fast, they are also really good guys and have been very helpful in making us feel at home.

I am here with fellow aussies Paul Murray and Leon Spiller. This year we are doing it in style with a fully furnished apartment and a shiny new Saab (well it is new to us. It is actually about 14 years old but still goes really well). The other guys arrived in Sweden well before me and were fortunate enough to become members of the exclusive local ski club Falun Borlange. This small club is possibly one of the most elite with many of its members on the national team in Sweden. The club helps the two Australians with waxing at races, clothing, training camps and accommodation and food at races.

As alluded to before the snow this year has been far from ideal. A stark contrast from my time here last year where we braved -20 to -27 temps regularly. This year so far has been far milder. Despite this I have only had to pull out the rollerskis and running shoes a couple of times. We have managed to keep skiing even if it was on a ridiculously thin cover of snow. The good skis definitely haven't come out of the shed yet.

The lack of snow has meant that several of the races that we had planned to do have been cancelled. As a result I have only raced once in the month I have been here.

Fortuantely there has been plenty to do outside of training. New Year's was a riotous night spent at a Mikael Ostberg's house nearby in Borlange. After being in training pretty hard for the last month it was time to cut loose and have the odd brew. The night resulted in some sore heads the next day, a broken chair (courtesy of Mr Murray) and a broken couch (Ikea of course) after an overzealous break dancing move went horribly wrong. I won't mention the perpetrator; suffice to say that I have to pay for repairs!

Curling is a curious sport to most Australians. Sort of like a very slippery game of lawn bowls. Considering ourselves to be amazing all-round sportsmen we nonchalantly challenged a few of the local skiers to a Australia versus

Sweden grudge match. How hard could it be? After all didn't Britain win a medal in curling at the Olympics? Our confidence diminished somewhat when we hit the ice. And hit the ice we did; hard and regularly. Needless to say the score line was not flattering to the Aussies but we did manage to show the Swedes some unorthodox moves.

The World Cup circus came to town this week. The night before the World Cup we had a dinner in town. The function was mostly to recognize the winners of a night relay. Well night is a relative term. In Australia a night relay might start at 6pm, but over here with Huey switching the sun off really early it started at 3pm. Paul and Leon raced and managed to deliver a decisive win for their team. Never ones to miss a free feed we readied ourselves for the evening presentations. Unbeknown to us the dress was formal a little point that our Swedish friends didn't alert us to until an hour before it started. I was a little concerned that trackies, runners and a t-shirt wouldn't quite cut it. Luckily Paul's girlfriend came through kitting us up with some swanky gear. My problem was the fact that I am a short-arse and none of the clothes fitted me. After trying on about 10 pairs of pants a baby-dolphin blue suit appeared. Magically it fitted; within minutes I was able to go toe to toe with Don Johnson! To complete the outfit I chose a checked shirt and black tasseled, lace less boat shoes. Hopefully the photo below does it justice! [See bottom]

Having a World Cup close to home was pretty exciting. We were right in the thick of things on race day helping some of the guys from Borlange with drinks. Unfortunately the TD seemed to object to our enthusiasm and spent much of his time ordering us off the course.

This weekend we are off to Asana in the north of Sweden. A 15 km classical race awaits us. We are all hopeful that the conditions will be slightly warmer than last year where we braved -20 temperatures. Leon Spiller is looking for a big one in his final FIS race before he heads back to Australia.

For me it is off to Switzerland to meet up with the rest of the Aussie contingent to race the Swiss Champs and the Konig Ludwig Lauf.

Hej då!


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