Charlotte Kalla on her third Olympic Games victory: “so much joy crossing the finish line”
Charlotte Kalla has triumphed at each edition of the Winter Games in which she has competed – from winning gold in her very first race, the 10km freestyle at the Vancouver 2010 Games, to the first skiathlon event at PyeongChang 2018, via her victory in the 4x5km relay at Sochi 2014. She also shares the record for the number of Swedish medals won at the Games, with nine podium places. Here is an interview with a great champion, who still harbours many ambitions.
How would you describe the Olympic values? What do they mean to you?
It means a lot of hard work with honesty to be the very best version of yourself. And the camaraderie you feel representing your country.
Did you always dream of becoming an Olympian?
Yes, I have always dreamt of representing Sweden in the biggest sports event. It was exciting to hear my coach describe the road to performing one’s very best for one specific week. It inspired me a lot.
What are your first memories of the Games?
It was the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City, when [cross-country skier] Per Elofsson was my big idol. [Charlotte was 14 at the time.] We had the chance to see some of the competitions in school instead of having lessons.
You won gold at your first Games in Vancouver in 2010. What were your first thoughts?
Did this happen for real?! It was surreal: a bit of relief, but most of all a lot of happiness.
Did your life change after you took your first two Olympic podium places nine years ago?
Yes, a lot has changed, because I have become older and learnt a lot more of who I am and also what my needs are.
Do you have a favourite out of your three Olympic victories?
No, it is hard to choose one. Every victory is special to me and had a special meaning to it.
Does the date of 15 February have a special meaning for you?
Yes, since 2011 [the year after Vancouver] my friend has texted me “congratulations” on the anniversary. I also had a really good performance at the World Cup that day in 2015, winning the 10km, before we headed to the World Championships in my hometown of Falun.
You won your third gold and the very first medal of the PyeongChang 2018 Games. Can you describe the skiathlon and your feelings after your victory?
I was very nervous before the race, but when I headed to the stadium and got out to test my skis, I felt more relaxed. I felt very strong during the classic part and tried to have patience during the skating. When we went out on the last lap I did a move and got a lead over the others. From that moment I knew I just had to push hard, look forward and just keep going. There was so much joy crossing the finish line!
You have 13 Olympic starts to date. Do you have any regrets for any of them?
Maybe the 30km freestyle in Sochi in 2014. I had a cold during the Games and my preparation before this race was really bad. 30km is a tough distance.
Which of the three Games in which you competed is your favourite?
It’s hard to pick out just one.
Along with cross-country skier Sixten Jernberg and sports shooter Alfred Swahn, you are the most decorated Swedish athlete of all time, at any Games, with nine medals. What does this mean to you?
Oh, that was new information for me. Cool! It is an honour just to be mentioned among these legends!
Do you still dream of more success? Do you plan to compete in Beijing in 2022?
I have still dreams of success, but I am not sure I will be in Beijing. It depends on my motivation to do the hard work to be in really good shape.