Alpine Young Guns: Emelie Wikstroem
By Michael Mastarciyan
Emelie Wikstroem is a college sports recruiter’s dream.
Not only is she an extremely talented alpine skier, she’s also a top student with academic credentials that would get her into pretty much any college or university she applied to.
A talented writer, photographer, blogger and outdoorsman (Emelie is also into fishing) Wikstroem is the complete package – a modern-day Renaissance woman, who also happens to have world class ski racing ability.
Like her academic report card, Wikstroem’s ski racing report card is packed with top marks. A gold medal in slalom at Trofeo Topolino in 2007. Eight Europa Cup slalom podiums – including two victories, the first of which came in 2009 when she was only 16! Second place in the overall Europa Cup slalom standings in 2009/2010, third place in the EC slalom overall last season, and seven top-3 results at Swedish National Championships (in every event except GS). Then, last March at the World Cup Finals, her most impressive result so far, a 4th place finish in slalom.
Despite being the ultimate blend of brains and brawn, the 19-year-old wunderkind from Savsjo, Sweden, is remarkably modest and down-to-earth - as we found out recently when we caught up with her for a quick chat….
MM: Emelie, you graduated high school this spring right?
EW: Yes I did. It was really fun, I was so happy that I finished. We were celebrating the whole day and me, my boyfriend, and my friends had so much fun.
MM: In North America, graduating from high school also involves going to a prom (a formal dinner/dance party). Did you go to a prom?
EW: No I didn’t. In my school the prom was not a big thing, and not that serious, and I was away for a camp and for some races so I couldn’t go. But I was not sad!
MM: Okay, don’t be shy, what did your final report card look like – straight A’s?
EW: No, not just A’s. In my school the highest-level is called MVG, it’s like very very good or something. I had a good final report card but not just MVG or A’s (she says with a big smile).
MM: What was your favourite academic subject?
EW: Photography and Swedish.
MM: What’s the worst mark you ever got on a test? Be honest!
EW: Second level. “G” in Sweden, it means that I just got it.
MM: Have you ever considered continuing school after your ski racing career ends some day? What kind of degree would you pursue?
EW: Of course I will study some day after my career but I don’t know what I want to do… That is another chapter that I can take care of later in my life, I have to figure it out someday.
MM: You finished in 4th place in slalom at the World Cup Finals this past March, what was that experience like?
EW: It was so fun. I was surprised because I couldn’t train the day when I came down. I was coughing all the time so I only did 3 runs the day before and some just before the race. I didn’t think I was in that good shape but I had it wrong. I did my best race ever and I think it was because I didn’t expect anything. I always ski better then. It was a really fun day, I almost cried!
MM: You’ve scored WC points in 10 of your 22 White Circus outings – all of them in slalom – will you continue skiing primarily in slalom or are you planning on racing more in other events?
EW: I ski all the events, but last year I was quite tired because I had a throat operation in the autumn, and I was sick at the beginning of the season, so I decided to concentrate on slalom. I’m hoping to do GS in the Europa Cup and maybe DH and SG sometimes in the Europa Cup or World Cup if I feel good and if I have time.
MM: You’ve had a lot of success in slalom on the Europa Cup tour, does that give you confidence moving up to World Cup?
EW: Yes of course. I had some good seasons in the Europa Cup, so I took that with me into the World Cup. You need to bring everything good to keep your confidence. You need it in the World Cup when you’re new, everything isn’t that easy in the beginning so that was good for me.
MM: Will you be skiing full-time on the World Cup tour this upcoming season?
EW: In the slalom yes, but in GS I will start with the Europa Cup and if that’s going well I hopefully will do a World Cup, and I really want to! DH and SG we will see...
MM: Is the World Cup experience very different from the Europa Cup?
EW: Yes it is, I mean there’s not a big difference, there’s a start and a finish like in every race but there’s more media and everything is a little bit better. Better conditions, organized and so on. It’s fun!
MM: Your first Europa Cup podium came when you were only 16. Do you remember what it felt like?
EW: I was really happy because the year before I skied really good but I was out many times so I couldn’t show everyone that I can make the podium so it felt great that day. My family was there to so that made it even more fun.
MM: What’s the most important thing you’ve learned so far in your ski racing career?
EW: You need to keep your head up, be strong. Fight. Sometimes it goes really bad but just keep going, sooner or later it will be your turn. I have been sick a lot, I have missed so much physical training, but I couldn’t be sad for that all the time. I just try to not think about it and do what I can do in the moment, just do my best, and it works. Be positive.
MM: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given related to ski racing?
EW: Be patient. Be sad, forget and let it go. Keep going. And in technically speaking - stand up and be strong in your whole body - especially in your stomache.
MM: Do you have any advice for young ski racers?
EW: Have fun and do your best. It's a fun time of life, so take advantage of it and do your best. Train hard!
MM: Success in slalom requires a lot of focus and concentration, would you agree? Does it involve anything else?
EW: You have to concentrate on your training, especially in my case because I have missed a lot over the years, each exercise is especially important to me. I take every opportunity I get, and if I'm sick I think that I am skiing, watching movies and visualize that I’m skiing. Having patience is something I have thought about often. Be positive if it’s a tough and time it will soon turn around, and you will be overjoyed!
MM: What do you like to do between runs in tech events? Do you have any special rituals?
EW: Ehmm...nothing special. Just be with my friends and have fun between the runs. No special rituals.
MM: You are quite an accomplished photographer; can you tell us about that?
EW: I think it’s a lot of fun to take photos. I like to do that, it's relaxing and you will always find new things when you’re shooting, small details that you never think of. For example, an animal or a flower.
MM: You also enjoy writing and blogging. Can you tell us about that and should I be worried about my job?
EW: I like to blog but I have to be honest I’m not that good, so I think you don’t have to be worried (she says with a smile). But I think it’s important, so my sponsors, family, boyfriend, friends and other athletes can see what I’m doing.
MM: You are into fishing too I’ve heard. What is it about fishing you enjoy so much?
EW: I went fishing a couple of time already this summer. It’s really fun when you get a fish on your hook! My boyfriend is really into fishing, so I just started. We were in our house in Funäsdalen in Sweden for fishing but we didn’t have a lot of luck! We’re hoping for better luck and more fish next time.
MM: Do you practice catch and release when fishing or do you cook your catch? Also, what’s the biggest fish you’ve ever caught?
EW: No I don’t! Usually I don’t catch very much, but I had a really big one on the line this summer - a salmon around 4 kg. It was so big, but we didn’t have a landing net so we couldn’t take it up, and then one minute later everything was gone - the hook and the fish! My boyfriend and I were very angry!
MM: You went on a holiday to Crete, Greece recently. What was that like?
EW: Cosy, lovely! It was me and my boyfriend, we were relaxing in the sun, training every day, and eating at some great restaurants.
MM: Do you have any nicknames?
EW: Yes I have, Emms or Empa.
MM: What do you think of Wiki-Ski as a nickname – I’m throwing that one out there, do you approve?
EW: I was called Wicky once but not anymore.
MM: How about E-Dub? (The “Dub” is slang for the letter “W”)
EW: Hmm...no I don’t think so! (she says with a big laugh)