Alpine Young Guns: Sara Hector
By Michael Mastarciyan
In the myths of ancient Greece, Hector was the most famous and feared Trojan warrior depicted in Homer’s epic poem The Iliad – the story of the war between the Greeks and the Trojans after the kidnapping of the legendary beauty Helen of Troy.
Interestingly, there is a Scandinavian connection to all of this proposed by a 13th century Icelandic author named Snorri Sturluson. According to Snorri’s The Prose Edda, one of the most famous written sources of Norse Mythology, the gods of the Nordic world were once Trojan warriors who had migrated to Northern Europe after the fall of Troy, and once there had been elevated to god status because of their advanced culture and technology. Snorri even writes that the famous Norse god Thor was once called Hector.
Now while it would be extremely difficult to prove a genealogical connection between Hector or Thor to Sweden’s up and coming alpine skiing star Sara Hector, one thing is certain, Hector (the ski racer) is definitely trying to make a name for herself in the annals of ski racing history.
An alpine warrior already at the tender age of 18, Hector captured gold in Giant Slalom at the FIS Junior World Alpine Ski Championships held at Crans Montana, Switzerland last February. A few weeks later Hector stepped on the podium again at the FIS World Alpine Ski Championships at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany when she helped Sweden win bronze in the Nations Team event.
While Hector has had a lot of success in GS, she has nevertheless also stepped on the podium in downhill at Sweden’s National Championships, slalom and super-combined on the Europa Cup tour where she has five top-3 finishes which include a victory at a GS held at Limone Piemonte, Italy last December.
Hector is currently in full-on dry-land training mode as she prepares for the upcoming race season but still game to answer a few questions about herself and her career.
MM: Sara you are the reigning World Junior Giant Slalom champion, tell us what went through your head the moment you stepped onto the top of the podium at Crans Montana last February?
SH: Honestly, I do not remember any special thoughts, only my feelings, which were so indescribably good. I was extremely happy that I had achieved something I had dreamed about for a very long time. I also remember that my coach came down crying, he was so proud of me, and I have never seen him cry before. I guess that was the moment I understood that I won, and how big it was to win a race like that. I had made some huge mistakes and almost fell, so I was very happy that I had reached my goal. I think I thought about that a whole lot standing there, very happy and proud.
MM: Did you have a memorable celebration that night?
SH: I wish I could say that I had, so I would have something to explain my very bad skiing on the following day, but I didn’t. We ate a cake and had fun together, but after that I celebrated by going to bed as soon as possible, preparing myself for the slalom event the coming day. So I guess you can say I celebrated by going to bed early.
MM: Two weeks later you were on the bronze medal winning Swedish team at the FIS World Ski Championships at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany in the Nations Team event – what do you remember most about that experience?
SH: Well, first of all, I don’t know if I helped them at all. I was there and doing warm-up, the start training and the inspection. Then Maria (Pietilae-Holmner) and Anja (Paerson) were the ones who were supposed to race and I would only ski if something happened to them. So I was at the top cheering all that I could but that was it. I was feeling a little bit sad that I couldn’t race because it looked so very fun. I was extremely happy over my team’s great performance and I hurried down as fast as I could to congratulate them. When I came down it was time for the prize giving ceremony and since I was part of the team I had to come with my team up on the podium. I am so happy that the whole team is so extremely nice and easy to talk to but I could not help feeling embarrassed since I did not consider my part of it as important. So I have been on the podium in the FIS World Ski Championships at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, but I was more ashamed than happy. Of course I am looking forward to a more active participation in the future.
MM: Joining the ranks of the more senior skiers on the World Cup team often involves some form of “initiation” – did your teammates “initiate” you in any way at Garmisch?
SH: Are you kidding me? The Swedish ladies team don’t do that kind of stuff I think, but of course I don´t really know yet…
MM: You also have a bronze in slalom from the 2010 FIS Junior World Ski Championships at Les Planards, France, you’ve finished on the podium in slalom and super-combined on the Europa Cup tour and took 2nd place in downhill at Sweden’s National Championships this past spring. Do you see yourself as a five event ski racer or a tech specialist?
SH: I definitely want to ski more than tech, but it all depends on how everything goes. My goal is to become a five event skier, but only the future will tell.
MM: Your teammate Anja Paerson is one the greatest alpine racers of all time. Has Anja given you any advice?
SH: Yes, she has been really been nice and helpful. She has given me tactical, technical, mental advice, and so on. She has been very easy to talk to if I have needed something. She really is one of the greatest racers of all time and I think it is a great benefit to have her on my team!
MM: What’s the most important thing you learned last season?
SH: How important it is to be patient and to believe in yourself, even when everything feels very bad. I learned how important it is to think positive, and how extremely hard it is for me to do it when I am not satisfied with my performance.
MM: What’s the funniest thing that happened to you racing last season?
SH: That I don’t want to tell...too funny! No, I don’t know what the funniest thing was. Maybe I was most happy when I learned how to make a turn in a totally different way or when I had a great race. But going back to funny - it was probably when my friend Anna did something funny and embarrassing in an elevator, so we both just couldn’t stop laughing. We have a lot of fun together and a great laugh is never far away.
MM: Your name is Hector - have you ever read about your famous Trojan namesake in Homer’s Iliad?
SH:No, just some parts of it in school, not the whole of The Iliad. I have seen the film Troy though.
MM: Do you think you might be related to the Trojan royal house? Do you ever feel like you’re a warrior yourself when you’re putting your slalom armor on to bash ski gates?
SH: Yes, and I really I feel like a warrior all the time! (Hector says with a smile). No, honestly I don’t know what I think because I have never given it a thought, but of course you have to fight when you are skiing, more or less. How much depends on how much you are challenging yourself.
MM: Have you seen the Hollywood movie Thor yet?
SH: No, but I want to.
MM: Did you study Norse mythology in school when you were growing up?
SH: Yes, I did, but not that much.
MM: Do you have a favourite Norse mythological figure?
SH:No, but I remember when I was young my Dad used to talk about the pig “Särimner” - that every time he was eaten he was resurrected the following morning. Perhaps it was because he had to buy food and cook for the whole family every day…
MM: Have you graduated High School yet?
SH: No, I have one more year until I am finished.
MM: Do you have “Proms” like they do in North America to celebrate High School Graduation? Are you going to yours if you have one?
SH: Yes, we are going to have one and I am definitely planning on going to it. I hope I will be at home.
MM: What have you been doing for dry-land training this off-season?
SH: I have been doing a lot of endurance, strength, agility, quickness and so on. I try to vary it in a good way. I do the things that fit me and my training.
MM: Can you tell us a little bit about where grew up?
SH: I grew up in Sandviken, a small town in Sweden. You can find the town (with about 40 000 inhabitants) 2 hours north of Stockholm. It has a small hill, where I grew up skiing. In terms of climate, it’s pretty typical for the middle of Sweden, which means we have a winter and a summer.
MM: Did you enjoy any sports outside of skiing when you were growing up?
SH: I did a lot of other sports when I was younger. In the summer I played golf, football (soccer) and athletics. I suck at most sports that involve a ball, because I do not have the right feeling, okay maybe not suck, but I am bad. When I played I used to be the one who ran most on the pitch but touched the ball the least.
MM: Have you had any fun holidays this spring/summer? Any trips to warm, tropical locations?
SH: I recently visited Sicily with my family and it was amazing. We had great weather and a whole lot of fun.
Summer Sara in Sicily
Sara training in the Swedish forest