Last June, Liz Stephen and Kikkan Randall of the US Ski Team went to Sweden and connected with Anna Haag for some intense Scandinavian dry land training. Anna Haag, an Olympic and World Championship medalist, is Sweden’s most voracious athlete for results. Anna’s competitive drive and pursuit for perfection is renowned on the World Cup circuit. It made sense that two of America’s top athletes would make the journey to Sweden to learn from and train with this stellar athlete. We contacted Anna at her home in Ostersund, Sweden and asked her about training with the American girls:
ANNA HAAG AT THE TOUR DE SKI. (photo by Atomic-Gepa)
RH: How did it come to be that Kikkan and Liz were invited to come train with you?
AH: Me and Emil met Kikkan at the FIS congress in Turkey last spring and we started to talk about the difference in training and that it would be fun if we could train together sometime. Then Kikkan came during the World Championships in Oslo and said that she had booked a ticket to Sweden in June. And Kikkan asked Liz if she wanted to join. The rest is history! I know Liz since we competed together at Junior WCS in Rovaniemi, Finland, 2005.
RH: What were some of the goals or benefits that you and the Americans were hoping to gain by training together?
AH: The benefit were that we could change experience and show each other that you can train in different ways, but still reach the same goal. For me it was fun speaking English so much, I learned a lot and I think I speak more self-confident.
RH: What are some things that Liz and Kikkan are doing, that you have not been doing, that you think you might now add to your training?
AH: They taught me a lot about strength-training. They do it in a different way with different exercises, and I think that must have been good as far as I know, because I think that both Kikkan and Liz are pretty strong girls! I took some good exercises from them and added in my strength-program. I also learned a lot skiing behind Kikkan at sprint-skate-intervals, she is fast.
(photo by www.annaoemil.se)
RH: What are some of the things that you taught the American girls? Do you think this will now be a part of their regular training?
AH: One of the things I remember they were exited about, that they would bring back to the US, were the double-polling-sessions we did. As far as I know, they didn’t do so much of this thing so they were really into doing more of that, both longer distance training just double-polling and intervals with double-polling. It was really fun that I could teach them some stuff also!
KIKKAN RANDALL, LIZ STEPHEN AND ANNA HAAG AFTER ONE OF THE DOUBLE POLE SESSIONS.
RH: I assume both Liz and Kikkan invited you to come to the US and train. What part of the US would you like to train at and what time of year?
AH: I would really like to come to Alaska in the spring, it seems to be so great! But I would also like to see the area around Utah were Liz comes from, it seems to be special surrounding there, which we are not so used to here in Europe! But I don’t know yet when I’ll cross the ocean and go there… Time will know.
RH: What would you like to gain by coming here and training with US skiers?
AH: I would just like to see how they train and it would be really fun for me joining them at some kind of sprint-training. But also just be with them. I really hope I can get there some day!
RH: It sounds like you formed a pretty good friendship with the American girls. Tell us a little bit about that.
AH: Yes! We are friends for life from now! They are awesome girls and they fit perfect with my family. My mum started to cry when they left! We laugh a lot, baked a lot and just hang out. It was two fun weeks, I think it was two of the funnest weeks in my life. We are already planning when we’ll see each other the next time, and it seems to be that we’ll spend the Christmas together in Davos!
RELAXING AFTER A SESSION. MANY RESTAURANTS IN SWEDEN SPONSOR LOCAL CLUBS AND TOP NORDIC ATHLETES CAN EAT FREE OF CHARGE. (photo by www.annaoemil.se)
RH: What was the general reaction in your town to having these American girls come train with Sweden’s best?
AH: Everyone just loved them! I think Orsa (my hometown, where we were training the first week) were really proud having them there. It was fun!
RH: How much time did you, Liz and Kikkan spend skiing at the tunnel in Torsby?
AH: We were in Torsby for three days, and I think we manage to ski there 4 or 5 times during that days! So we get some hours spinning round and round at the 1,2km lap. We did know the track after that, if you know what I mean!
RH: Tell us a little bit about the tunnel in Torsby. Does it have some climbs? How would you compare it to other tunnels in Europe?
AH: A lap takes about 5 min and is 1,2km long. There are two climbs, one shorter and steeper and one longer but not that steep. I have never been to another ski tunnel, so I don’t have so many to compare to. But I think Torsby is really good, both for training and ski testing.
FINAL QUESTION: The women of the US Ski Team are famous for their Monster Cookies. Did either Liz or Kikkan make a batch for you? What did you think?
AH: Yes, they did! And I just love them! I know that my mum did a batch a few days ago, so the Monster Cookies will conquer Sweden.
LIZ AND KIKKAN ENJOYING THE MIDNIGHT SUN OF SWEDEN IN JUNE. (photo by www.annaoemil.se)