Swedish text by Johan Trygg, English text by Teemu Virtanen
Have you heard the name Axel Jutterström before? If you followed the Blink Festival in Norway this weekend, you must have come across his name. He showed there that he will be an interesting young skier to follow in the Visma Ski Classics Pro Tour this winter.
The 22-year-old skier from Mora, who recently became a part of Team Eksjöhus, surprised both himself and the skiing world with a seventh place, ahead of world-class names, in the double-poling uphill race, Lysebotn Opp, on Thursday. Then on Sunday, he finished second with his team in the eight-hour Blink Classics Team Challenge.
"Things went really well in Norway. I'm surprised it went so well," Jutterström told our affiliate Längd.se.
When Axel Jutterström finished seventh at Lysebotn Opp just over a minute behind the winner Andrew Musgrave, it certainly took everyone by surprise. Jutterström beat such strong skiers as Norwegians Joar Thele, Vetle Thyli and Karstein Johaug and some great Swedish long-distance skiers such as Emil Persson, Max Novak and Marcus Johansson.
On Sunday, young Jutterström proved that not only is his VO2max in order, but his stamina is also intact. In the Blink Classics Team Challenge race, he had to go against Team Ramudden's Max Novak on the final lap, and he managed to secure second place in the relay for his Team Eksjöhus.
"It was something new for me. In total it was 80 kilometers racing at a rock-hard pace, it was tough. I had a good collaboration with Novak, and we were able to break away from Lager 157 Ski Team. On the last lap, Novak was too strong for me, but I'm happy for our second place. A good start for the new team and we were able to prove ourselves. Actually, Ari Luusua should have gone instead of me, and we would have been even stronger," says Jutterström.
On Sunday’s race, Axel skied together with Linn Sömskar and Morten Eide Pedersen in a team format, and he did it with honor.
But who is this new sensation? He is not yet a household name in the skiing circuit. Axel grew up in Mora and studied at the “ski gymnasium” (special high school for skiing) at home. After high school, he went to Östersund where he studied sports science.
As a junior, he took eighth place at the Swedish Junior Nationals in the 20 km mass start. Last winter, he did his best races in traditional distances by finishing 16th in the 15 km skating and 17th in the 30 km classic mass start at the Swedish Championships in Borås.
This summer, however, Jutterström has steered the effort towards long distance races. Team Eksjöhus was quick to recruit the young Mora-guy when the team managers saw the potential in him.
"It happened after I finished fifth at Grönklitt Double Poling Hill Climb. Oskar Svärd and Espen Träldal got in touch and asked if I was interested in putting my focus on long distance races.”
Jutterström was one and a half minutes behind Oskar Kardin on the hill race in Grönklitt but beat many well-known skiers. His performance piqued Svärd and Trädal’s interest, and they invited him to the team's training camp in Eksjö, and then he was offered a place on the team.
Last winter Axel was 49th at Vasaloppet and also raced Vålådalserennet (54th), but his plan was to continue in traditional distances.
"I had to think about it, and I felt that this was a good opportunity to develop. Since it went so well at the Swedish Championships last winter, that was not a given to do long distances. But I feel that it can be an advantage to focus on long distance skiing and double-poling at an early age,” says Jutterström.
Now he is getting familiar with the routine that team manager and three-time Vasaloppet winner Oskar Svärd and his teammates Eide Pedersen, Luusua, Sömskar and Bångman have come up with.
"I’m excited about the upcoming winter. It's going to be so much fun to go neck-and-neck with the best in the world. It will be a bit different from competing at home in Sweden," admits Jutterström.
What about your goals next winter?
"At first, I thought that I would just see and learn, but now after what I have done at the roller-ski competitions, I feel that I have to raise the bar and have higher expectations of myself. I want to be in the fight for the pink youth jersey.”
How can you explain your rapid development this summer?
"The training has worked well this summer. I've felt that I've taken concrete steps forward since I started focusing on long-distance races. I've done longer workouts but haven't changed that much in my training. It has been fun and motivating to develop my double-poling capacity.”
In addition to his training, Axel works as a test supervisor at a winter sports center in Östersund. This spring, he completed his thesis for his sports science studies.
"I expect to graduate next semester," Jutterström says.
Judging from Jutterström's roller-skiing efforts, Team Eksjöhus made a great choice by signing this young talented future double-poler.