By Johan Trygg
24-year-old Emil Persson got a dream start in the Visma Ski Classics Season X. Young Emil from the cross-country town of Östersund in the middle of Sweden sprinted home the victory at the Livigno Prologue event in a convincing way.
After the race, Emil was taken by an overwhelming feeling, and it got even better when he saw that his teammates Marcus Johansson, Andreas Holmberg and Øyvind Moen Fjeld finished just behind him as 4th, 7th and 10th.
“I haven't really been able to take in what has happened yet. It was a special day,” says Emil when we talk to him a few days after the success.
The team remains in Livigno and increases their red blood cells count until the next race - La Venosta on December 14.
“We are doing really well here and are of course satisfied with the results we got this weekend. It's easy to train now,” says Emil.
The fact that Emil was able to win was a surprise to many. For his own part, however, he had some thoughts that a victory could be possible.
“I knew that if I had a good day, it could happen. As the race progressed, I felt more and more that I can make it real,” says Emil.
In the last uphill of the race, Morten Eide Pedersen, Stian Hoelgaard and Andreas Holmberg got a small gap, but Emil was close as he was in the pack behind with his teammate Marcus Johansson.
“At that point, I hoped it would hold all the way for Andreas. But in the downhill, we quickly caught up the others again.”
“In the final stretch, I just hoped to get my own track. I found one on the far right and gave out everything I had in me. I quickly got a few meter advantage, and the feeling of crossing the finish line first was amazing”.
A few weeks ago, however, Persson was unsure of his shape.
“I was under the weather all October and got sick in early November. Then things didn't go so well at the Swedish season premiere in Orsa Grönklitt. But it got better day by day. When we arrived at the high altitude of Livigno, it felt good and Friday's Pro Team Tempo gave me a good indication that I was on the right track.”
Last winter was Emil’s first in Visma Ski Classics. The best results were 9th at the Prologue and 10th at Marcialonga.
“I learned a lot last winter. Now I feel more confident and can be a little cooler during the races.”
Emil started skiing and competing as a young child. The best places in traditional competitions are two tenth places in cup competitions in Sweden. He felt early on that the longer races suited him best. After several good long-distance performances in Sweden two years ago, he got a contract with Lager 157 Ski Team for last winter.
“I already tried long-distance races as a junior and noticed that I was better than those skiers I was losing against in traditional races.”
Your sprint ability. Does it come naturally or have you trained hard to get it?
“I don’t know. Anton Karlsson has shown what he can do, and I have trained with him a bit.”
Team Director Anton Järnberg flagged for Anton to be a future winner of Visma Ski Classics before the season. But he did not expect a victory to come now.
“He has the ability needed to win a race. But I figured he was going to be a winner in a couple of years,” says Järnberg. “That being said, 35 km at high altitude fits Emil well. We already saw this last year.”
“I also know that Emil is one of the fastest skiers. I have been able to see that when he trained with Anton Karlsson.”