By Jenny Larsson
20-year-old Karolina Hedenström, Team Eksjöhus, started skiing late – 17 years old - after joining the local ski club, Östersunds SK’s weekly recreational group.
Three years later she was racing in Visma Ski Classics for one of the best Pro Teams, Lager 157 Ski Team.
Karolina started in five races during season X, always with a positive trend and ending 16th in Årefjällsloppet, as her personal best. She has learnt some lessons towards her road to the top. In Season XII she represents the new Swedish Pro Team, Team Eksjöhus, with a new calm and joy to the sport – thanks to her experiences last season.
What made your eyes open for Visma Ski Classics?
“There were several factors making me switch to long distance skiing. The first being the fact that I’ve always known somewhere inside me that long distance is something I’ve always wanted to try. Also, double poling and endurance have always been something that’s been my strengths and I think my body is better suited for those kinds of races. So, it was mostly a natural development,” says Hedenström.
“But in addition to this I heard so much positive of Visma Ski Classics and the charm of competing in teams from Jenny Larsson and Ida Dahl (both Team Ramudden), who also lives and train in Östersund like myself,” she continues.
What were your biggest insights and experiences after one season in Visma Ski Classics?
“It was actually really little that matched my expectations on Visma Ski Classics. I knew what a challenge it would be, but I wasn’t prepared on how fun it would be and the fact that I could be thrilled over ending up 22nd,” says Hedenström.
“Letting go of an actual performance goal is really hard but I’ve managed to collect something from every race and have that piece with me for building myself better in the future. I mean, nobody congratulated me after finishing 22nd at Vasaloppet or 16th after Årefjällsloppet, but I really felt that I was so proud over my performance,” she continues.
“For me it was also really impressive and inspiring being a part of Lager 157. Every training session you could see their seriousness and ambition to always aim higher. They did the job,” Hedenström states.
Did those insights made you change your approach to training?
“Yes, I learnt plenty. Mostly that I don’t have to fit “the correct pattern” of how a successful long distance skier train. If you train hard you’ve got to learn to rest correctly. Today I’m kind of frightened of being tired because last year, I was so lowered from all of my training. It was all my choice of course, but I really failed on the rest. But you can train hard and be tired, but not without the rest. That’s my big “learning by doing”.”
“Also, you get good on what you do. I really think I got to double pole a lot in becoming good at it. At least considering where I’m in my development now. Let time do its thing. Trust more in my gut, which is the most difficult. In my opinion, that is what separates the best from the ones below,” Hedenström says.
How does this turn out concretely in your training?
“I have a new person helping me out discussing my training, but I’m the one deciding over my training mainly. Also, I really realized that I’ve got to implement the right intensity in every training session. One might think that’s kind of a junior problem that you learn in high school, but I never attended a ski gymnasium! Another important parameter is my uphill double poling, and I’m confident that work is going to show this winter.”
What are your goals for Season XII?
“Once again, and I know it sounds fluffy, finding and relying on my gut!
I don’t work so well under performance goals, but more the challenge in general. But of course, I want to see that I’ve taken a step in the results list. I want to be at the top of the podium, even if it's a few years away.”
And what’s the key for this success?
“To be calm. I think I burned myself at both ends in an attempt to fit into the template of a long distance skier. I trained hard and got tired, and also burned mentally in the end. Now I feel a hunger I haven’t felt before, and I am convinced that it is about a general surplus, Hedenström ends.”