- 12 Feb 1936
- Garmisch-Partenkirchen 1936
Larsson skis the race of his life
Born inside the Arctic Circle in Kurravaara, in Sweden’s far north, Erik August Larsson was 23 when he earned selection for Garmisch 1936 on the back of a number of international victories and his part in Sweden’s bronze medal in the 4x10km cross-country relay at the 1935 World Championships in Vyskoe Tatry (CZE).
It was in the new Olympic event that Larsson showed the full range of his skills. The second man out for his country, he took over from team-mate John Berger with Sweden lying third behind Norway and Finland, and proceeded to reel in Klaes Karppinen and take second place with a lightning-fast leg of 39 minutes and 39 seconds.
The Finns ultimately recovered, however, to reclaim second place and then overhaul Norway to win gold, leaving Berger and Larsson and team-mates Artur Häggblad and Martin Matsbo to collect the bronze, over two minutes off the pace.
Two days later, Larsson was the 93rd skier out in the individual 18km event, which also formed part of the Nordic combined competition. Czechoslovakia’s Lukas Mihalak laid down an early marker by becoming the first man to dip under the 1:20 mark in a time of 1:19.01, though that time was smashed by Oddbjørn Hagen. Starting 59th, the Norwegian eclipsed the Czech by three and a half minutes.
Hagen’s time was still the one to beat as Larsson approached the finish line. The Swede was in unstoppable form, having overtaken a number of competitors en route, among them Norway’s Arne Rustadstuen, who had started 90 seconds before him and would finish sixth. Larsson eventually stopped the clock at 1:14.38, nearly a minute faster than Hagen, with Finland’s Pekka Niemi later coming in to claim the bronze.
So successful was Larsson’s winter of 1936 that he was awarded the coveted Svenska-Dagbladet medal as the most outstanding Swedish sportsperson of the year. No sooner had he reached the top, however, than he called time on his sporting career. Hailing from a religious family, he became a pastor in the northern town of Kiruna.