Alpine Young Guns: Magdalena Fjaellstroem
By Michael Mastarciyan
If Sweden’s newest tech discipline up-and-comer Magdalena Fjaellstroem develops into a superstar in the mold of a couple of other former Swedish World Cup racers named Stenmark and Paerson, the English-speaking media are going to have a field day with her nickname.
Turns out, the 18-year-old from Tärnaby (which coincidentally is the old stomping ground of Mr. Stenmark and Ms. Paerson) goes by the name of “Monne” when she mingles with friends and family – and though it’s pronounced “MOHN-neh” in Swedish, there is no doubt people like yours truly will be calling her “Money” if she blossoms into a podium regular...and trust me if you are worthy of this nickname, chances are you are something very, very, special.
“Money” if you are not a sports nickname expert, is one of former NBA superstar Michael Jordan’s most famous monikers. The nickname was made famous in a late-1980s TV commercial for Nike Air Jordan basketball shoes, starring Spike Lee and MJ, in which Lee keeps calling Jordan “Money” (click here to see it http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BhHONpmlxPc) because of his unbelievable basketball talent.
Miss Fjaellstroem may not be the Michael Jordan of the mountains just yet, but based on some of her big race stage results, she’s definitely on track for what looks like a very successful career in the world of going fast on skis through gates planted on snowy, icy slopes.
With a gold medal in super-combined from the inaugural Youth Olympic Winter Games in January 2012 held in Innsbruck, a slalom gold medal from last February’s Junior World Ski Championships held in Quebec and three Europa Cup podiums (one a slalom victory) last season, Fjaellstroem is showing early signs of a career she’ll be able tell her grandkids about in the year 2063 when they visit Grandma “Money” during holiday visits and summer vacations...but let’s not jump that far ahead just yet.
I spoke to the future Miss “Money” recently about what I thought might be the coolest nickname in the world of alpine ski racing someday, and what she needs to do to earn it...she kind of set me straight though...especially on my big idea for her new nickname...
MM: Okay, for starters, do you want me to call you Magdalena, Monne or Money for the purposes of this interview...and don’t be shy, I personally think you’re worthy of “Money” even at this early stage in your career?
MF: Of course I want to be called Monne, that’s my nickname and Jordan can keep his “Money.”
MM: Okay Monne, you’re not a big fan of “Money” as a nickname, but you have to admit it’s kind of hip and urban sounding, no???
MF: Yes “Money” sounds very hip and urban, but I prefer Monne.
MM: Do you know who Michael Jordan is? Ever see video of him playing during his NBA career?
MF: To be completely honest, I have no clue, and I’m not interested in basketball.
MM: How about Spike Lee...ever see any of his movies?
MF: No, I have never heard about Spike Lee.
MM: Who gave you the nickname Monne? What does it mean? Is it just short for Magdalena?
MF: My brother gave me my nickname. He’s 2 years older then me, and when I was born he called me “Mannamonne” instead Magdalena, and that’s where Monne comes from.
MM: Alright, that’s unbeleivably cute...I promise you I will try to crush any future attempts at calling you “Money” by the media if I can! While we’re still talking nicknames though, I once went to school with a girl named Magdalena and she hated being called “Magda” – what do you think of the name Magda? Or even “Lena” ever think of calling yourself by one of these names?
MF: Magda is a regular nickname for Magdalena, but Monne is cool. It’s not so normal, and I like it!
MM: What’s the coolest nickname you ever heard of?
MF: Frog, but that’s probably because he’s a cool guy who jumps really high.
MM: You grew up skiing in the tracks of Ingemar Stenmark, Anja Paerson and Jens Byggmark, at the same ski club Tärna IK Fjällvinden. What is it about this club that produces such great skiers?
MF: That’s right! I’m proud to be a member of Tärna IK Fjällvinden, I will take every chance I can to be as good as them. And if you live in Tärnaby it is easy to get the training you need to be the best.
MM: You’ve trained with Anja Paerson a lot. What’s she like as a training partner?
MF: Anja is a good training partner and she has taught me a lot about skiing and success.
MM: Was Anja your favourite skier growing up?
MF: Of course, we were neighbors in Tärnaby, I remember when she came home from St Anton 2001 with her medals. From that day, I knew what I wanted to do, I want to be as good as she was!
MM: What’s the best piece of advice Anja’s ever given you?
MF: She taught me that the most important is not to do like everyone else, doing your own thing is the best.
MM: What about Ingemar Stenmark and Jens Byggmark, have you ever met them?
MF: Of course, Tärnaby is not so big, you can even meet them at the gym or at the beach.
MM: Your Dad is your coach, what’s that relationship like?
MF: Yes, we have a good father and daughter relationship. He has never pushed me too hard, and he is always there for me, it doesn’t matter if it is on the slopes or at home.
MM: Anja Paerson excelled in tech events early in her career but had great success in speed events later in her career. Can you see yourself as a successful speed event racer someday?
MF: Yepp, I like the speed events too, but just now I don’t have time to race both tech and speed.
MM: You won a Youth Olympic super-combined gold medal in 2012, what did that feel like?
MF: It felt like I had won the big Olympics. It was a pleasure to be in that event, it was really fun!
MM: You won a gold medal in slalom at Junior Worlds in Quebec last February, what was that experience like?
MF: On that race day the weather was really bad and I was sick. My experience from that race is that even when I feel bad I can still do it.
MM: Did you learn any lessons from your victories in Quebec and Innsbruck? Does winning on such a grand stage give you any extra confidence going ahead in your career?
MF: The best part of skiing is to take the victory. So yes, I feel more motivated!
MM: Ski racing is a tough sport and winning is not always the outcome – how do you deal with not winning?
MF: I hate to lose, but when you have been fighting a long time, and you win, it feels better than ever!
MM: Can you tell me what the best day you ever had on skis was like?
MF: It was when I took the victory in Vemdalen last season.
MM: What was the hardest day you ever had on the slopes like, can you tell us about it?
MF: I think it was at the GS race in Innsbruck, because I had the lead but end up 5th. I wanted to win that race but I didn’t race for it, so now I have learn from my mistake.
MM: Success at a young age in sports is exciting, but some athletes lose their passion and exit the sporting arena prematurely for a host of different reasons. Austrian racer Jessica Depauli, who had great success early on, retired in June and shocked the ski community. Can you ever imagine yourself leaving the sport at an early age?
MF: That shocked me too. No, skiing is the only thing I really like to do.
MM: What do you like most about ski racing?
MF: I like to fight, fight for the victories!
MM: What do you like least about ski racing?
MF: Preparing my skis, I really hate it.
MM: What do you enjoy doing when you’re not racing or training? Any hobbies, sports or pursuits you want to tell us about?
MF: Last year I shot a moose, now I ride motocross!
MM: Swedish crime novels are extremely popular globally. Italian racer Sofia Goggia told me she loves reading them, especially the ones written by Stieg Larsson and Camilla Lackberg. Do you enjoy reading? Have any favourite authors or genres?
MF: No, but maybe I should read one of those books, I like to read the books of Lars Kepler.
MM: Life on the road ski racing can be very taxing. What do you like to do to relax?
MF: I spend many hours on Facebook, that’s relaxing for me.
MM: Have you taken any time off during the off-season? Go on any vacations?
MM: How are you doing in terms of health...any injuries that need to heal this off season?
MF: No, I’m really short, have you ever seen a short stick break? Haha!
MM: What’s off-season training been like so far?
MM: Where will you do most of your racing next season? Europa Cup? World Cup? A mix of both?
MF: A mix of both.
MM: Will you race tech events only? Any chance we’ll see you racing speed this upcoming season outside of super-combined events?
MF: I hope I have some time for some speed races but I don’t know yet.
MM: Okay, one last question about they nickname “Money” that we’ve now established you will likely never have! But if you were going to get it as a name, what do you think you would need to do to earn it?
MF: More money maybe? Haha!