Fight for the
IN HIS FIFTH SEASON LEADING FINLAND’S CROSS COUNTRY
SQUAD, MAGNAR DALEN TALKS SAUNAS, WAX AND WHAT
HAPPENED TO ELOFSSON BY TIM REYNOLDS
How did you, as a Norwegian living in
Sweden, come to be the head coach of
It was when Finland decided that they needed
something new, that they needed to rebuild
their system because the results have been
terrible for a while now…Before that I had tak-
en a break from the elite level. It’s tough; you
are on the road all the time and working, work-
ing, working with a lot of stress, and traveling,
traveling, traveling…If you are working with top
skiers all the time you lose contact with under-
standing how they came to be at this level.
As the Swedish coach you worked with
Per Elofsson, arguably one of the most
talented skiers ever. What was that like?
His motivation was so strong; he wanted to do
everything to try to be the best, but if you try
to do everything perfect and too complicated,
then you won’t move forward. You have to see
what is most important: with him it was that he
was a big talent and especially good in skate
but if he wanted to be a top classic skier, he
really had to work hard to get better at classic.
…Basically after the 2002 Olympics he trained
too much. He wanted to be the best, and he
decided to do everything he could to make this
next level. He didn’t realize how tired he was
until the season started. The first races were
not good, but mainly because of motivation
and focus — even if the training season went
bad, he still managed to win the pursuit at the
World Champs in Val di Fiemme. That was his
last top competition and his third gold at World
Champs. Then I think he understood that his
body wasn’t working and he stopped. He was
that kind of person. He was doing things to win
and if he can’t win its not interesting anymore.
So he decided to go to school. And that was
that. Today he is a banker, and very successful
The Finnish team has been up and coming
since you took over: Why is that? What
sort of changes have you overseen?
In my experience, the Finnish people are very
individual; they don’t like to stay in groups. It’s
Finnish Magnar Dalen (with fellow Finnish coach Niclas Gron, left) has been coaching for a quarter-century.