By Teemu Virtanen
In Sweden, Finland and Norway, today is a special day for all fathers as we celebrate Father’s Day. Among our Pro Skiers in Visma Ski Classics, there are many fathers who take a moment from their busy training schedule to spend this Sunday with their family and children. One of them is Anders Aukland from Team Ragde Eiendom, who can be called as the “Father of Long Distance Skiing” due to his amazing success and longevity in the field. He is 47 years old and still a force to be reckoned with in skiing. Let’s have a hefty celebratory brunch with this legend and learn what he thinks about family, skiing and his own father.
1. What does Father's Day mean to you and how are you going to spend it?
“Father’s day really doesn’t mean so much to me, but it’s always very nice to get a present or some nice words from my daughter. My two boys don't even know it’s Father’s day today."
2. What is your proudest moment as a father? What is the importance of family to you?
“I am proud of my kids every day, and of course, the family means very much to me! I grew up with a great family with a father and a mother who spent all their time making sure that there was a good and exiting childhood for us three kids. But the fact is that trying to be a professional athlete besides having a family is hard, and someone has to pay the price sometimes, often my wife.”
3. How do you balance your skiing career and family life?
“During the first year of having my family, I was still training a lot and stayed away on training camps. But I learned through the years that I have to train less, more effectively and stay at home more. I think I have found a good balance after a lot of experience.”
4. You are a father figure in long distance skiing, what is your advice for the younger generation of future skiers so that they can follow your footsteps?
“My advice is to train hard, be fit, be curious, always look for development in everything and try to be better than the rest. These elements together with a lot of knowledge about history and what has worked out so far will take you far.”
5. You've seen the growth and development of long distance skiing, and Visma Ski Classics in particular, what are the things that have improved the most and what is the current status of long distance skiing as a sport of its own?
“There has been a great development in double poling technique, training and materials. More young skiers are specialized in double poling than ever before. But it’s important to know that the best skiers 10 years ago already trained in the same way they do now. Nowadays, there are just more athletes who understand that. So, my advice is to be ahead of your competitors.”
6. There is always room for further development, what elements would you like to see taking place in Visma Ski Classics in the future?
“I really like long distance skiing, and Visma Ski Classics has built up the sport very well! For the future, I would like to see some longer races and I would like to see more World Cup skiers participating in our races. I hope to see professional teams in cross-country ski racing tours like in cycling; with sprints, all-round races and really long distances. I also believe that big mass start races and public races are needed if cross-country skiing wants to survive as a sport. Like marathon races are for running!”
7. At 47 you are still going strong, what is the secret of your success and longevity? And do you see yourself as an example and inspiration for others to push the envelope as you have done?
“I hope that I can inspire other skiers to always be hungry for development and see that the joy in racing remains the same as it was when I was 9-10 years old. I also hope to inspire ordinary people to train for public races.”
8. How has your training proceeded this year and what are your goals for the 10th anniversary season?
“My goals are that my Team Ragde Eiendom wins the Pro Tour, Marcialonga, Vasaloppet and Birkebeinerrennet. I also hope to have enough power and speed to be fighting for the podium in some races!”
9. A word about your team, Petter Eliassen joined your team and you now have four Ski Classics Champions in your ranks - this must be quite a boost for all of you and if so, how do you feed off of each other?
“We have a strong team, but I know that many skiers are training very well and the fight for the wins will be hard. Petter is a skier with the qualities I like, so he has given us a great boost when training with us.
10. Finally, as it is Father's Day in Northern Europe, what kind of influence has your father presented upon you? Do you remember his best advice for you when you were a child?
“My father is still training every day even if he is turning 75 this year. He has been the best trainer, motivator, supporter and inspirator for me, Jørgen and a lot of young skiers growing up in Tønsberg in the early 80s. My father’s advice when I was young was to train hard or train long!”