Saturday, June 23, 2007

seeking Ironman Sweden (En Svenskan Klassiker)

i am seeking Ironman Sweden...

i've been a bit wistful lately recalling the Svenskan Midsommar (Swedish Midsummer), which is a swedish holiday honoring the summer solstice as the longest day of the year. i'm just a skinny half-breed Swedish-Asian who left Sweden when i was 7, but i have some very fond memories of that country, and sometimes i get a little nostalgic thinking about my childhood...and among the biggest parts of my childhood was the holiday of Midsommar.

i won't discuss it too much here, beyond the fact that it involves odd sights like perfectly composed and dignified Vikings gathering with their children around a maypole and clasping hands and proceeding to dance while singing a song about a small frog. oddly enough, EVERY Swede does it--and every Swede knows it, since the song is taught to every Swedish child and the Midsommar is arguably the biggest Swedish holiday next to Jul, Christmas, and New Year.

if you're into culture, you can read my thoughts on the holiday at:

it's such mopey pangs of yesteryear that make me look for excuses to go back and visit Sweden.

which brings up some of you know, i'm using Ironman as an excuse to travel and visit the world. basically, i figure to maximize my money's worth and combine my 2 greatest passions: Ironman and travel. the plan is to register for IM races in various locations around the world, and then use them to justify 2-3 week excursions in locales that i figure most people don't ordinarily get to see. it helps that: 1) a lot of international IM races are supported by Ironman-dedicated travel agencies, 2) there's such a tight-knit community of Ironman athletes at every race to provide support and advice, and 3) most IM races are in very pretty places

using this reasoning, i've set out a schedule over the next few years for trips to IM New Zealand, IM Australia & Western Australia, IM Korea, IM South Africa, and IM Brazil. i also figured it would have been really nice to satiate my nostalgia for my Swedish youth and register for Ironman Sweden.

well guess my surprise when i searched and lo and behold found NO IM Sweden. what the fubar?!?! boooooooooooooooo!!! the closest thing was an Ironman Scandinavia 70.3, which was only a half-IM and was postponed (ref: WTC IM Scandinavia 70.3 announcement).

i'm so bummed i'm actually considering writing a letter to the WTC about this issue. it seems that a land known for its history of raging bloodthirsty Viking warriors and with a reputation for generating rugged, fearless adventurers would get the honor of hosting its own Ironman.

i did manage to found out, however, that--believe it or not--Sweden does have its own endurance sports challenge, which i'm guessing is taken as their equivalent of Ironman. it's something called the En Svensk Klassiker (literal English translation: A Swedish Classic). it consists of 4 events:
to claim the title of "A Swedish Classic" and receive the Swedish Classic Circuit award, a competitor has to complete all 4 events within a single 12 month period. for more info, you can check out the following sites:
yes, i know, the events are not all on the same day, and so likely ripe to be pooh-poohed by all you Ironman athletes out there. but it's apparently a big deal in Sweden, and something considered to be quite an athletic achievement. and you have to admit: it still does involve a certain level of skill, effort, training, and're not going to get away without having to sweat a little bit.

i'm actually finding myself considering doing this--one day. right now, the thought of having to live in Sweden for 1 year is a little bit of a conundrum finances-wise. that, and i don't know a single thing about cross-country skiing (my mom and dad used to do it, and they tell me it's quite a bit harder than it looks, especially over long distances). but i'm putting it on my list of things to do.

besides, it's the closest thing to Ironman Sweden...unless they eventually get around to having an Ironman Sweden.

there's a really good description of the Swedish Classic at:

if that doesn't work, the full text of the article is below:

Hardy Swedes gear up for classic challenge
Nicholas Chipperfield
Published: 15th June 2007 11:21 CET

Nicholas Chipperfield explains why thousands of people from dozens of countries are getting on their bikes by a lake in the middle of Sweden this weekend.

This Friday, as Swedes quietly leave work early to start furious preparations for midsummer – forming vast queues in Systembolaget and printing off song sheets featuring ditties for dancing like frogs around Viking fertility symbols – thousands of keen, sporty types will be gearing up for a 300 kilometre-long bike race, one of five events that form one of the sporting world’s most Swedish, and multi-disciplined achievements.

The Classic comprises cycling, swimming, running and skiing events, all of which are tough competitions in their own right;

This weekend’s Vätternrundan, a 300 kilometre race around Lake Vättern, will see 17,800 cyclists from a record 34 countries assembling at the starting line in Motala.

Vansbrosimningen, a three kilometre swim, is set to attract some 3,100 people to the waters of Vansbro, south of Mora in Dalarna, on July 8.

September’s Lidingöloppet, a 30 kilometre run through woodland on the island of Lidingö in Stockholm, was established in 1965 and had some 13,000 competitors in 2006.

Engelbrektsloppet, a 60 kilometre skiing race held in February, or Vasaloppet, again in Sweden’s heartland, Dalarna, a 90 kilometre cross-country skiing competition or its Öppet Spår course, held in the first weekend in March.

Those seeking to attain Classic status are required to complete these events over the course of 12 months.

According to the latest count, 27,802 people – 4,751 women and 23,051 men – have achieved a Classic since its inception in 1971.

If many of those who have obtained a Classic see the accomplishment as the realisation of a one-off, life-long ambition, there is a select band who surely deserve to be feted in their own right. These are the eight people who have attained the honour 25 times, and a further two individuals who have done the Classic a total of 30 times.

A version specifically designed for female athletes – Tjejklassikern – was established in 1992, and has been completed by 11,827 women.

”What makes the Classic so unique is that it’s a competition open for both professional athletes and people who simply enjoy exercise,” Åsa Larsson, spokeswoman for A Swedish Classic tells The Local.

The Classic was founded by Mats Qvarfot from Vansbro, who wanted to encourage people to exercise continually through the year in different disciplines, rather then focusing on one specific event for a limited period.

Qvarfot brought together representatives from Sweden’s major sporting events. The group decided that an individual who completed Vasaloppet, Vätternrundan, Vansbrosimningen and Lidingöloppet in a 12 month period would be honoured with the title ‘A Swedish Classic’.

”The Classic has a unique link to the Swedish countryside and many competitors are as interested in experiencing nature during the races as their performances in each event,” Larsson says.

Vasaloppet, one of the world’s biggest ski races, attracting 15,800 skiers this year, is also steeped in history. The race commemorates a journey made by a key figure in 16th century Swedish politics, Gustav Eriksson Vasa.

In 1521 Vasa travelled to Mora in a bid to convince the local people to join him and fight Danish King Kristian. Vasa was unable to rally support and fled – on skis – pursued by the Danes.

The inhabitants of Mora however, then decided to back Vasa. Two of the town’s fastest skiers were dispatched to catch up with him. The pair found Vasa in Sälen, 90 kilometres away, and convinced him to return.

Vasa led his country to victory over the Danes and in 1523 he was proclaimed king of Sweden.

Vasaloppet runs in the opposite direction of Vasa´s original journey, starting in Sälen, with the finish line in Mora, as it has done since the first race was staged in 1922.

Sweden’s history, natural beauty and a healthy dose of typically Swedish clean living and efficient organisation have made the Classic popular in amateur and professional sporting fraternities throughout the world.

Three hundred and forty Sweden-loving sporty foreigners from 15 countries including Australia, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland and the US, have achieved the Classic.

”I think our overseas competitors are fascinated by the Swedish countryside and that the events are so extraordinarily well-organised and such fun. For many it’s a lifestyle choice, and many participants have become life-long friends through A Swedish Classic,” Larsson says.


Anonymous said...

Hi Jonathan

You might want to check out following link.

Anonymous said...