by Chipp Reid

Downhill season for Swedish skiers
The 2011-12 World Cup ski season hasn’t been kind to Swedes, especially the biggest names in the skiing disciplines.
Andre Myhrer is the only Swedish skier, male or female, to crack the top 15 in the overall standings. Myhrer is 13th in the standings, with no shot at overtaking current leader Marcel Hirscher of Austria. On the women’s side, Sweden’s most accomplished skier, Anja Pärson, isn’t even in the top 15 of the standings. Pärson has battled injury problems and earlier this season decided to concentrate solely on speed events.
Pärson’s decision opened the door to a number of young Swedish women skiers, but none has stepped up to replace the six-time Olympic gold-medal winner. Although Swedish skiers sprinkle the standings in each of the six disciplines that make up the Downhill World Cup, no one is having anything close to a break-through year.
Sweden’s best event this season has been the Giant Slalom. Three Swedes are in the top 15 in both the men’s and women’s circuits. Myhrer leads all Swedes with his No. 3 placement on the GS leaderboard while Frida Hansdotter is the top woman at No. 7. Natalie Pietlae Horner and Therese Borssen are ninth and tenth on the women’s leaderboard while Jens Byggmark and Matthias Hargin are 11th and 12th on the men’s side.
The skiing woes extend to biathlon, a sport Sweden, along with Norway, once dominated. Björn Ferry, whom experts thought would battle for the World Cup crown, is stuck in 14th place, the highest showing for any Swede this season. Helena Ekholm and Anna Maria Nilsson are the top-ranked Swedes on the women’s circuit, coming in at fourth and fifth respectively.
In cross country skiing, Marcus Hellner is currently fourth in the overall standings, more than 500 points behind leader Dario Cologna of Switzerland. Charlotte Kalla is the top on the women’s side, holding down fifth place overall in the standings.


Playoff picture takes shape in Handball Elitserien
With five games left in the regular season, all but the final playoff for the Handball Elitserien are set. As of March 1 Eskiltuna GUIF led the league with 61 points with Ystads in second with 57 points and defending champs Savehof third with 55 points. Alingsås held fourth place with 49 points and Malmö fifth with 46 points, Kristianstad, 42 points in sixth and IFK Skövde HK in seventh place with 40 points. Only the eighth and final spot remains up for grabs.
HK Drott Halmstad held the No. 8 slot as of March 1, but it faced a running battle with ninth-place Luigi HF and tenth-place Redberglids. Halmstad with 40 points, held a two-point edge over Luigi and three over Redberglids. The tenth-place team inched a little closer to Halmstad Feb. 29 with a 23-21 win over Alingsås.
The playoff picture for the women is much clearer. With two games remaining as of March 1, IK Savehof, the 2011 league runner-up, took first place with 35 points, two better than second-place Luigi IF. Skuru, Eslöfs and Skövde hold down third, fourth and fifth place. Västerås is in sixth place, BK Heid is seventh and Spårvägen is eighth. Spårvägen is six points ahead of Lundagård and cannot lose the final playoff spot.
The second season in both leagues start March 9.

Guidetti fever goes European
First Holland, now Europe—is the world far behind?
Guidetti fever swept through UEFA Feb. 29 when Sweden took on Croatia in Zagreb in a friendly international football match. One of the 21 players dressed in blue and yellow was 19-year-old Feyenoord Rotterdam star John Guidetti.
A veteran of the Under-21 Swedish national team, Guidetti was up with the A side for the first time in his young professional career. He played his way into head coach Erik Hamren’s plans with his performance in Holland, where his 18 goals in 16 games rivals the scoring pace of Dutch First Division alumni Ronaldo, Romario and Marco van Basten.
Guidetti has become an icon in Holland and Hamren, in a pre-game press conference Feb. 28, said the hype has reached fever point. The Sweden manager said he usually fields questions from the European press about his “other” star, AC Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic. However, with Guidetti on the team, “I didn’t have one question about Zlatan,” Hamren said.
Guidetti could become the youngest footballer to ever play for the full national team in a major tournament if he appears in the European Championships this summer. Guidetti would be 20 years, 1 month and 27 days old the day Sweden plays its opener in the tournament June 11 against Ukraine. Tomas Brolin is the current record holder. He played against—and scored on—Brazil in the 1990 World Cup at 20 years, 5 months, 12 days.
As for the Croatia match, Guidetti didn’t score, but then he didn’t have to. Ibrahimovic scored once and set up two more goals as Sweden topped the Croats 3-1. After the match, as the media screamed requests to players to rate Guidetti’s performance, even the normally taciturn Ibrahimovic managed to crack a smile.
“I think John could be our wild card,” the Sweden captain said. “Every team needs one.”

Final Hockey Elitserien rankings down to the wire
One game remains in the regular season of the 2011-12 Elitserien and four playoff spots remain up for grabs. Lulea with 97 points, and Skellefteå with 93 points, hold the top two spots, but three, four and five could all change after the final regular season game.
Frölunda is currently third with 90 points while HV 71 and Brynäs both have 89. Defending league champs Färjestad safely hold down the No. 6 seed while AIK, with 81 points, holds the No. 7 spot. The eighth and final spot, right now, is in the hands of Modo, with 77 points. However, the Växjö Lakers, in ninth place, also have 77 points.
The Lakers face Luleå March 6 in the season finale while Modo faces Linköping, which is battling Djurgården to climb above the relegation zone.
Frölunda takes on Färjestad, needing a win to clinch the third seed. HV 71 plays Djurgården while Brynäs faces Timra. If both HV 71 and Brynäs win and Fröunda loses, the Blue Bulls would take the third seed over the Tigers on goal difference.
The same holds for the Modo-Växjö battle. If either team wins and the other loses, the winner takes the spot. If both teams have the same result, Växjö would have to score six goals more than Modo to take the final spot in the second season.
The Elitserien playoffs begin March 10. The top three teams select their opponents. The fourth seed plays whichever team remains from the selection process.

Marta returns to Swedish football
The world’s best female soccer player is returning to her roots, albeit with a different team.
Marta da Veira Silva, better known as simply Marta, signed with Tyresö of the Dam allsvenskan Feb. 29 as the Swedish women’s league continues to benefit from the demise of the U.S.-based Women’s Professional Soccer.
Tyresö did not disclose terms of the deal. Marta spent three years in the WPS after playing for Umea IK for five seasons. She arrived in Sweden in 2004, thanks to the help of Nordstjernan, which worked closely with then UIK-General Manager Roland Arnqvist to find the then-17-year-old Brazilian starlet.
Sources familiar with Marta’s multi-million dollar contract with WPS said meeting her financial demands was one reason the league suspended operations. Officially, WPS said it took the 2012 season off to deal with legal issues.
Marta joins an already star-studded Tyresö side, which is bidding to become the newest Damallsvenskan dynasty. Swedish national team captain Caroline Seger signed with the team last year after helping lead Western New York to the WPS title. Seger was teammates with Marta. Tyresö also signed Swedish internationals Madeleine Edlund, Lisa Dahlkvist and Linda Sembrant and Veronica Boquete of Spain, who also spent last year in the WPS.
Marta said she chose to return to Swedish football because the now 26-year-old striker wants, "to win the Swedish league this year and play Champions League next season.”
"I enjoy being in Sweden,” Marta said. “It is my second home, and I have very good memories from here."
Marta said she could have earned a higher salary in other countries, but "money isn't everything."
Tyresö finished in fourth place last season.