Jörgen Brink won the historic Vasaloppet cross-country ski race for a second year in a row.
More than 14,000 skiers turned out March 6 for the 87th Vasaloppet, the historic 90 kilometer race from Sälen to Mora, Sweden, and when the snow cleared, Jörgen Brink took the winner’s honors.
The victory was Brink's second consecutive win at the prestigious event. In 2010 he won by a narrow margin over Norwegian Daniel Tynell. The 37-year-old Brink is also the oldest winner in event history.
“To win the Vasaloppet is something you dream about, and to do it twice is amazing,” Brink said to SVT, Swedish television, after the race.
While Brink emerged as an excellent marathon skier, he is perhaps best known for one race. At the 2003 World Championships in Val di Fiemme, Brink, the anchor of the Swedish relay team, had a massive lead and looked like he would ski for the win. Instead, he blacked out, was passed by both the Norwegian and German anchors, and barely crossed the line to give Sweden the bronze medal.
Norway’s Torjus Børsheim took the early lead in this year's Vasaloppet, holding at one point a two-minute lead over the rest of the field.
However, later in the race three members of Team Xtra Personnel, Norway’s premiere marathon racing team, Arne Post, Anders Aukland and Jerry Ahrlin, along with Czech Stanislav Rezac took the lead. Post quickly dropped from the pack, and was replaced by Jörgen Brink, who had suffered a broken pole earlier in the race.
Brink, skiing for Hudiksvalls IF and Team United Bakeries not only bounced back to make contact, but took the lead to the finish, and was closely challenged only by Rezac, who ended up second.
Ahrlin crossed the line third, five seconds behind Brink, while Aukland was fourth, 11 seconds back.
The deep men’s field featured some recognizable World Cup names, including Swedish sprinter Teodor Peterson, who finished ninth, just ahead of Norwegian Johann Kjølstad, who crossed the line 10th. Norwegian Simen Østensen, who recorded two top 10 finishes in the 2011 Tour de Ski, finished 15th, and three-time sprint World Cup winner Borre Nass finished 25th.
Meanwhile, Sweden’s Jenny Hansson won the women’s race and gained a certain amount of redemption after finishing third in the Vasaloppet in two previous attempts.
“I have been waiting for the perfect day and I did perfect skiing today,” Hansson said to SVT after having crossed the finish line.
“I was fighting all the way and it is long since I have been so tired. It feels so good and I am extremely happy inside.”
Susanne Nyström, winner of the women’s race in 2010, and a fellow member of Team Xspirit finished second, 48 seconds behind Hansson. Sofia Bleckur of IFK Mora finished third, just over five minutes off Nyström’s pace.
The annual Vasaloppet is a long distance (90 kilometers) cross-country ski race held on the first Sunday of March in Dalarna, Sweden between the village of Sälen and Mora. It is the oldest, one of the longest, and in popular consideration the biggest cross-country ski race in the world. The race was first run in 1922, inspired by a run by King Gustav Vasa in 1520. Sweden is the most prolific producer of winners, with 74 titles (including two all-Sweden ties, in 1928 and 1988), or 90 percent of the 82 contested races.