Anna Haag had her first World Cup start in 2006 and is already a two-time Olympic medalist. She won the silver medal in the Vancouver Games in 2010 in the 15 km pursuit and another silver in the team sprint with Charlotte Kalla.
Most recently she won a silver medal in the ladies 4 x 5 km relay at the World Championships in Val di Fiemme, Italy. FISCrossCountry spoke with her in Davos, Switzerland where she is home recovering from the Championships.
FIS: During the recent World Championships in Val di Fiemme (VdF), Italy you had some of your strongest results since your two Olympic medals in Vancouver in 2010. Was it a surprise to you or did you think coming into the championships you were ready for such results (in particular 6th in the 30km classic)?
AH: I was dreaming of achieving good results, but since I hadn't done anything like that in a while (too long!!) I wasn’t sure it was possible. So I was really happy after the 30 km. Also after the relay, where I could ski my fastest! :-)
FIS: The temperature during the ladies' 30km classic was quite warm in Fiemme - how difficult were the snow conditions as the competition went on?
AH: It was pretty hard, especially with the sun shining directly on the snow. But it was the same for everyone. I didn't feel so warm during the race but it was nice to drink some water afterwards.
FIS: Going up the final climb called the "Zorzi" in the ladies 4 x 5 km, you broke away from Finland's Roponen with a strong attack. When competing as part of a team does it help you to dig deeper to find all the energy you have left?
AH: I think so. Competing for the team, with the team, and especially this team (Ida, Emma and Charlotte) makes me feel that I had to give it my all. So I think, yes, it's easier to find some extra energy and speed then. You don't want to let the team down.
FIS: The King of Sweden was present during the second week of competition, and the Crown Princess early on in Fiemme. He is said to be a huge fan of Cross-Country Skiing. Do you as athletes feel anymore pressure when members of the Royal Family as watching, or is it a motivator to represent the country with a great result?
AH: I think it’s more motivation than pressure, because the King is really interested in the sport and also knows a lot, more than people would think. For example, after the ladies’ relay, the King came to me and said "Anna, you had the 3rd best skating time!” The King had been sitting and reading the result list. That shows how interested the King really is. It is really important for our sport in Sweden that we have such a big fan as our King. We owe the King a lot for that.
FIS: Johan Olsson's victory in the men's 50km has been called historic, and is referred to as one of the greatest 50km wins since the mass start format was introduced. What does such a result mean for Sweden with Falun 2015 now being the next World Championships?
AH: Oh. Hard question. For the sport in Sweden, it was important and huge. It shows what great skiers we have in Sweden. But it also put the big question whether it should be mass start or not in Falun. Sweden has always been a bit against the mass start, but since Johan did so well, I think it will be hard to decide whether it should be mass start or not. Johan made the race super interesting. Would it be more interesting if he had done this by himself, in an individual race, or is it more interesting like this when Johan skied by himself? The previous 50 km races (like at Holmenkollen in 2011), it was a ton of skiers until the very end, nothing happened during the race, so it was not interesting at all. But if more skiers dare to be like Johan in Fiemme, the mass start in 50 km, will be interesting again.
FIS: Sweden came away from the Val di Fiemme with 7 medals in Cross-Country, 6 silver and 1 gold. Will these Championships be considered a successful one?
AH: Yes. It was one of the most successful championships in many, many years. Even though we had just one gold. But we took the gold in the greatest event!
FIS: What does the rest of your competition season look like? When will you travel to Finland for this weekend's Lahti Ski Games?
AH: I'll go from Davos to Lahti on Friday. Then compete there on Sunday, then Holmenkollen the Sunday after. Then it's just the Final left. After that I'll do the Swedish Nationals and perhaps go to Sochi for some days, just to see the stadium. So in the middle of April, I'll put my racing suit away and just enjoy the springtime in the Alps in Davos. Perhaps do some skiing.
FIS: Can you tell us a bit about the brand “anna&emil”?
AH: After the Olympic Games 2010 Emil (Joensson) and I started to work together as a team called anna&emil. We do all the work for our partners/sponsors together and that helps a lot. I don't take all the responsibility myself and neither does Emil. We have 6 big partners with the team, who we are working for in different ways. In the team we also have smaller partners that can help us with smaller stuff, like branding our car, managing our webpage and so on. We have three persons working for us, not full time, but more or less. We provide ski schools for kids and youth, ski camps for our partners and other interested persons, and we give motivational seminars about sport or just life in general. We are also have a camper, filled with skis and boots and all the stuff you need for skiing that travels around in Sweden, letting kids try Cross-Country Skiing. It's a full time job, but we are enjoying it and without our team, we wouldn't be able to survive and compete at the level we do. So we are very thankful for all the support that we get from our team, our families and friends. If you saw the broadcast from Val di Fiemme, I'm pretty sure you saw some of our flags or fans!