March 28, 2022
Kalla winning the 15K F at the Swedish Championships March 24, 2022. Photo Credit: Jonas Lindkvist.
Olympic and World Champion Charlotte Kalla (age 34) ended her long career with two more Gold medals,
bringing her total to 30 Swedish National Championship Gold medals, and was on the podium in every race she entered.
During 2021 Charlotte struggled with a severe case of COVID-19, coronary heart issues and an injured back. She recently announced that the 2022 Swedish National Championships would be her last elite race. The Championships are held in her hometown of Piteaa in northern Sweden. With the hardships of 2021 no one expected Kalla to be competitive at the Swedish Championship. The Swedish Team has two of the best distance skiers in the world. Norway’s Therese Johaug (age 33) is ranked #1, Sweden’s Frida Karlsson (age 22) is ranked #2 and Ebba Andersson (age 24) is #3. In addition, Maja Dahlqvist (age 27) and Jonna Sundling (age 27) are the two best Sprint skiers in the world.
Kalla is not tall, only 1.61 meters (5’ 3”), but in the world of XC skiing she is a giant. She has been a member of the Swedish National Team since 2006. She has won nine Olympic medals: three gold and six silver. She has also won thirteen World Championship medals: three gold, six silver, and four bronze. Before the 2022 Swedish Championship, Kalla had captured the Gold at the Swedish National Championships 28 times.
On Wednesday, March 23, there was a classic 10K race and Kalla made the podium by finishing 3rd, behind Frida Karlsson and Ebba Andersson. On Thursday, March 24, there was a mass start 15K freestyle race. Frida and Ebba set an incredible pace, but they could not shake Kalla. The three were skiing so fast that at 7.5K the rest of the field was over a minute behind. At this pace there was not a single Swedish TV commentator that believed Kalla could stay with Frida and Ebba for another seven kilometers. To keep the pace high Ebba and Frida kept altering the lead position (all XC ski racers know it takes a lot more energy to ski in front). No matter how hard Ebba and Frida skied, Charlotte was only two or three seconds back. On a steep uphill before the finish Frida tried to get a gap on Ebba and Charlotte, but both managed to stay right behind her. As the three skiers topped the hill and sprinted for the finish, Kalla passed Ebba and Frida and finished in first place. Ebba and Frida were so closely paced crossing the finish line that second and third place could not be called until the finish photos were examined. Frida got second and Ebba third.
This was Kalla’s twenty-ninth gold medal at the Swedish National Championships. To ski like this after a severe bout of Covid 19 plus other injuries is incredible. But this race also showed that you can recover after Covid and that is very good news.
On Sunday, March 27, Kalla competed in the relay with teammates Ebba Andersson and Jonna Sundling. Their team won the Gold medal in the relay… Kalla’s 30th Swedish National Gold Medal! On Monday March 28, Kalla finished 3rdin the 30K.
I recently read an article in a magazine that listed what were, the author felt, the most memorable Olympic XC ski races. Ranked #4 was Juha Mieto vs Thomas Wassberg in the 1980 Lake Placid 15km. #3 was the relay race in the 1994 Olympics in Norway between the Italian and Norwegian team. #2 was the duel between Poland’s Kowalczyk and Norway’s Bjoergen in the 30 km classic race at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Ranked #1 was the women’s 4 X 5km relay in the 2014 Sochi Olympics where Kalla led Sweden to Gold by doing the impossible. If you want to find out why the international commentators considered her mission impossible look at the video link below. Kalla skied the 5K race 25 seconds faster than legendary Marit Bjoergen, who anchored for Norway.