Skidgymnasiet’s importance to the development of cross-country skiing cannot be overstated…
Malmberget’s Skidgymnasiet celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2011, and could look back on some extremely successful years.
They have developed some huge names in the world of cross-country over the years, including Christer Majbäck, Niklas Jonsson, Lina Andersson, and more recently, Charlotte Kalla and local talent Marcus Hellner. Just to name a few…
Over 350 students have attended Skidgymnasiet over the years. In addition to those mentioned above, there are a lot of students who have reached some of the highest levels of cross-country in the world. The unique conditions at Gällivare have nurtured the talent of a number of Olympic and World Cup medalists, at all different levels. A large part of this success is due to Lars-Gunnar Pettersson, who has been an enthusiastic and dynamic teacher at skidgymnasiet for 29 years.
“Skidgymnasiet has been important, not just for Gällivare, but for Swedish skiing in general,” says Lars-Gunnar. “We’ve been developing talent and supplying top riders through our training throughout the years, and have every reason to feel pleased.” Lars-Gunnar Pettersson has also served as race director for the World Cup competitions in Hellner Stadium on Dundret for years.
“L-G” and his colleagues at the school have periodically had to fight to maintain Skidgymnasiet’s high status when public opinion changed, or when other schools wanted to challenge Malmberget’s role as an important ski school. L-G and his coworkers have weathered the storms, however, and continued to plan for the best interests of the school. By establishing the tradition of having World Cup competitions on Dundret every year, they’ve created a unique ski environment which is constantly evolving.
The superstars who got their training at Skidgymnasiet are the ones mentioned above, in addition to today’s international stars, Marcus Hellner and Charlotte Kalla, who have both taken Olympic and World Cup gold. Lina Andersson has won Olympic gold, as well as silver in two World Cups, and bronze in one. Christer Majbäack has taken home medals from six international competitions: World Cup gold in relay, two World Cup silver medals and one bronze, and one Olympic bronze. Niklas Jonsson went neck and neck with skiing giant Björn Dählie in Nagano in 1998 for Olympic silver, in an extremely suspenseful fifty kilometer run.
Marcus Hellner, originally from Lerdala in Västergötland, deserves an entire chapter himself, from a Gällivare perspective. It’s doubtful that he would’ve become a world class skier, with two World Cup golds and two Olympic golds, had he not moved to Gällivare at a young age. He had applied to numerous ski schools, but had been rejected. His potential was spotted by none other than Lars-Gunnar Pettersson, who welcomed him with open arms. It was a huge stroke of luck, and Marcus himself attributes a lot of his success to his time at Skidgymnasiet. This tough competitor has smashed all records when it comes to scaling Dundret, and he considers himself a true Gällivare local now, fully adjusted to life in nature.
Times were not always good for cross-country in the shadow of Dundret, and the 50s and 60s were difficult, mainly due to a lack of leadership, and an increased interest in downhill skiing. There was an upswing in the 70s, however, when Malmberget AIF’s Lena Carlzon-Lundbäck, supported by her father and talented ski coach Stig Karlsson, became a member of Sweden’s ski elite. She won eight national competitions, and placed very highly in a number of international contests.
High up on Hökvägen in Malmberget, with a lit trail behind the cabins, was Lina Andersson born into a ski family. Her father Hans was a promising skier in his youth, before he prematurely hung up his skis. Lina Andersson is undoubtedly the biggest name in women’s skiing in the area, having competed for many years for Malmberget’s AIF before moving to the Piteå Elite. Lina was known for her explosive speed, her technique, and her strong uphill ability, which came in handy when sprint cross-country became popular. As a junior competitor, and then as a senior, she continually took both national and international competitions, and finally retired in 2011 due to injuries and sickness.
The twin cities of Gällivare-Malmberget, as well as the villages of Hakkas (thanks to leader and local legend Sören Henriksson) and Nattavaara, produced a number of well-known national team members during this time, such as Larry Poromaa, Mikael Edman, and Viola Eriksson. Her brother Gerhard Eriksson was an uncommon talent, but he had an accident during a training camp in Saxnäs, and his career was unfortunately cut short.
Footnote: Skidgymnasiet in Malmberget, which has announced plans to move their premises to Dundret, also has an alpine program. A founding member of this program was Håkan Åsell, a powerful force in alpine skiing, who plucked superstar and son of Gällivare Thomas Fogdö out of the crowd for Skidgymnasiet. Contemporary names such as Anton Lahdenperä and Finnish ace Tanja Poutiainen have also developed their careers here.