Britta Johansson Norgren could not have dreamed of a better end to her career. Last Saturday, she took her 25th victory in Visma Ski Classics when she won Ylläs-Levi and at the same time secured the overall victory in Visma Ski Classics for the sixth time.
“It was absolutely incredible and very very nice feeling,” says Johansson Norgren.
The season finale Ylläs-Levi was like a well-directed film for Britta Johansson Norgren. On Friday night, the news came that she would end her career. On Saturday, she won the race and secured the Visma Ski Classics Champion competition.
Could you have dreamed that it would end so well?
“No, it was really great to be able to win and then it was a double victory for the team with Emil (Persson) win. It was absolutely incredible and a very very nice feeling.”
It must have been special before and during your last race. How did your thoughts go? Could you act like it was a normal race?
“It was difficult, and I knew I would feel it that way. I was very careful to tell the team that we would not tell anybody that I should quit earlier. I wanted it to be one last race so I could celebrate then, but before that focus entirely on each race,” says Johansson Norgren and continues.
“I also wanted my teammates to behave towards me as usual all the way, so that I could win the yellow bib and get a good last race. But it was still very emotional. When we released the news that I was going to quit there were so many people who showed appreciation.”
“To have that with me in the morning before the start was a wonderful feeling, to feel that there are so many people cheering. But it became one of the tougher races mentally, to stay focused,” says Johansson Norgren.
There was nothing you could notice if you watched the race on TV. Britta looked very strong and focused all the way. In the end, only Astrid Øyre Slind, Team Koteng Eidissen, could follow. When it was time for a decision in the sprint finish, Britta was, as so many times before, the strongest one.
“It became a really fun race. I had top skis and felt so strong. The feeling was great. It’s cool to finish a career like that, there are very few who get to do that.”
How does it feel now?
“Before the weekend, I thought it was a bit sad and melancholy. Afterwards, it has mostly been incredible joy. There is so much love I have received from lots of people. It’s an incredible feeling, you would like to stop a career every day,” says Johansson Norgren and laughs.
What do you say about your whole last season? Not least considering last season which was ruined due to frostbite.
“I am very proud of the job I did to come back. I not only see that I got back to the level I had before but that I actually took another step. I have taken in a lot of what the younger ones do in training. I have been curious about development,” says Johansson Norgren and adds;
“Then of course I’m not happy that I did not get any victory in the Grand Classics races. On the other hand, I was in very good shape at Vasaloppet and it was a good day for me. It was really just that Astrid (Øyre Slind) was better, that she had her super day. However, Birken and Marcialonga were a little disappointing in the feeling I had then.”
“I can’t say that I did a really bad race this winter. At Reistadløpet I was behind but it’s still a good race for me. I was the one who was the best at double poling again. It was my best Reistadløpet.”
Can you pick out some things that stand out extra in your long career?
“The whole first year when I was in World Cup and with the Olympics in Turin 2006. It was so much new things and so cool. You looked up to everyone. I beat Marit Bjørgen for the first time. There are so many incredible memories from that year and especially from the Olympics.”
“Then I would say when we won the World Cup relay in Davos (February 2007). It was the first victory for Sweden in many years. I skied towards Bjørgen the last leg and outsprinted her in the end. For me, it was huge.”
“In my long-distance skiing career, it’s about the memories in a different way… not results. All the boys said that girls can’t double pole this race, “okey, but I will double pole it” I said. Then I got appreciation for it. It’s this journey of development that I think is so incredible.”
“Of course, the first time I won Vasaloppet was a big thing, but there I more got the feeling of relief, that I managed it. It was not that huge joy that I achieved something I didn’t think I could do.”
“My comeback this Season and the victory at Pustertaler Ski Marathon in early January. It was not a super race but the feeling that I came back and won meant quite a lot to me.”
What will you do now after your career?
“Nothing is completely decided. This will be a big change in my life and for the whole family. I will have good help from Stig Viklund (mental trainer) who helped me during my career. To continue in the same way, to realize that I can influence how things should be and how I should feel.”
“I feel that I want to give back to cross country skiing. There’s so much I’ve got, both when I was young and all the way with the team. I want to give back to the team, but perhaps above all, to youth sports. Maybe not as a job but you try to give back in some way.”
Britta will also have more time with her daughter Emilia who turns eleven this year.
“It feels so nice. She has always supported me in my skiing. Now she’s getting bigger, and she likes figure skating and attend some competitions. It feels good that I can be there with her.”
What education do you have to fall back on?
“I have studied sports science at the university. I have also studied health counselors, diet counselors and PT.”
“I am very interested in the mental part. I wish I could somehow help those who want to do sports, to be able to do it healthily. To be able to perform without wearing out too much mentally or in the body.”
That is really a topical issue today!
“Yes, today its much stress that you must perform. Now with social media, you never get away from it either. It’s both about not feeling so good mentally but also all the back problems in skiing and other injuries. I think that with the right approach, you should be able to be the best without having such problems. I hope to be able to help and find how we should work in Sweden around this.”
Will you help in Lager 157 Ski Team in the future? Do you already know if that will be the case? Or is it a blank sheet of paper you have in front of you?
“It’s pretty blank. We’ve talked about it a bit, but nothing is decided. Somehow, I will of course be there. The team and the athletes will always be close to my heart.”