At St Moritz 2017, Felix Monsén had a chance to see, learn and enjoy the World Championships experience. There were no expectations or media attention on him, yet he delivered an impressive 16thplace finish in the men’s downhill.
– It was really quite something. Not many get to experience the World Championships so I really tried to take it all in and have fun that week. That was my approach and it also helped deliver good results, recalled Monsén.
It was a first sign that the Swedish men’s speed team was onto something for the first time in a while. Patrik Järbyn won silver in the super-G in Sierra Nevada back in 1996 and then bronze in the downhill at Åre 2007. Hans Olsson also scored two World Cup podiums in 2008 and 2009. Before that, it was in the 1980’s that Sweden had some respectable results in the speed events on the men’s side. No wonder that even Monsén himself was not convinced about becoming a speed racer.
– You like to say that it is tough to race speed and that you are tough to do that but I am really not sure why I chose to focus on the speed events. I used to race all events but then started to do better in speed and giant slalom so I quit racing slalom early on.
It is not easy to be a speed racer in a national team with a strong focus and great traditions in the technical events. Training and competing alone without a team can be challenging. That’s how it was for Felix Monsén last season.
– I questioned everything I was doing and hit bottom. It can sound strange when you are living the life that only few get to experience. But as an athlete there is so much that comes together and it is often not all that rosy. It probably looks like great fun from the outside but isn’t when you are in the middle of it.
– I started feeling that it did not make sense to keep going and that made me feel ill. But that’s when you have to evaluate what you can do to change that way of thinking, he continued.
Speaking with friends, family and coaches helped. He began to focus on what he himself needed, on having fun and taking a few short breaks during the season. When he returned from a break, he also had a different perspective into ski racing. This year, Monsén also has a teammate after Alexander Köll joined the speed team.
– The best part is the togetherness. Hans Olsson said it well: lonely is not strong. I agree with him. It is tough to travel around by yourself. We here in Sweden are not used to doing things alone. In high school and at the ski club, you are always part of a team and the social dimension has always been very important for me.
– Until the moment you stand at the start gate, ski racing is a team sport and when I am feeling well, I also perform better. When I was travelling around last year it all got too serious, everything was centered on training and competition.
Monsén has overcome the tough days but unfortunately the World Championships season has not started well for him. He broke two fingers in October which has impacted his preparations before Lake Louise. Skiing is fine but the additional protection is a challenge. His goal now is to score solid results in the World Cup and be selected for the World Championships in Åre.
– I have been a bit cocky and said that I want to win a medal there, and I still stand behind that goal. I think I can ski fast in Åre and I be up there. As a forerunner for the men at the Finals I was right on par with the racers. I have the potential and speed in me to ski fast.
– Moreover, we will have a home snow advantage. I love to race in the North of Europe and during the Championships I will live at home from where I can walk to the lift.
Åre is home for Felix Monsén since the family moved there in 2006 and he is convinced that Åre will be a fantastic World Championships host.
– I think it will be amazing. It is a relatively small town and everyone will stay close to each other so I would say it is the ultimate venue for the World Championships. At other places have lived further away and then you do not get the feeling that the resort is hopping. Here it will be very compact, also because of the set-up of the town. There are not many places that can compete with Åre.
Felix Monsén in a nutshell
Born: 1994 Saltsjöbaden, Åre resident since 2006
Family: Brothers Max, Sam, Zack, mother Karen and father Johan (former alpine director at the Swedish Ski Association)
Selected results: Four-time Swedish champion, one podium in the European Cup, 16thin downhill at St Moritz 2017
FIS ranking downhill in November 2018: 54th
About Stockholm 2026: I am crossing fingers that Sweden wins the bid for the 2026 Olympic Winter Games so that we get home Games in Åre as well.