Name: Sandra Naeslund
Sport: Freestyle Skiing
Discipline: Ski Cross
2016/17 World Cup ranking: 2nd
- 2017 ski cross world champion
- 2-time junior world champion (2016, 2017)
- 2017/18 World Cup current points leader
When she was younger, Naeslund started off in Alpine skiing and was also a talented soccer player. Forced to choose between the two sports, it looked as though she might pursue soccer until she tried a ski cross race. Not only did the experience inspire her to switch from Alpine to ski cross, it also convinced her to choose skiing over soccer.
Naeslund joined the World Cup circuit during the 2012/13 season, earning Rookie of the Year honors as a 16-year-old.
Naeslund was just 17 when she made her debut at the Sochi Olympics in 2014. She was easily the youngest racer in the field, as none of her competitors were younger than 20. Despite the veteran experience of the other racers, Naeslund advanced all the way to the semifinal round. After a DNF in her semifinal heat, she came back to win the small final and claim fifth place.
It’s been a steady rise for Naeslund, who won her first junior world title for ski cross in 2016 and then defended that title in 2017.
At the senior level as well, Naeslund has been finding success. She scored her first World Cup victory in 2017 and found the podium in eight of 12 races that season. As a result, she ended the year ranked No. 2, a new career high, behind 2014 Olympic gold medalist Marielle Thompson.
At the 2017 World Championships, teammate Anna Holmlund was on the minds of Naeslund and all the other Swedish skiers. Holmlund, who was the bronze medalist in women’s ski cross at the Sochi Olympics, had been injured in a training crash several months prior to the world championships that left her in a coma for an extended period of time. The Swedish ski cross team ended up having a historic day in Sierra Nevada, with Naeslund winning gold on the women’s side and compatriot Victor Oehling Norberg, the boyfriend of Holmlund, taking gold on the men’s side.
Before the 2017/18 season got underway, Thompson suffered a serious knee injury, clearing the way for Naeslund to take over. Through the first seven events of the current season, Naeslund has accrued seven podium finishes and five victories. As of January 17, she is the current World Cup points leader by a hefty margin.
With reigning Olympic champion Marielle Thompson currently sidelined by a knee injury, Naeslund has become as the most dominant athlete in women’s ski cross. After winning five of the first seven World Cup races of the 2017/18 season, Naeslund looks like the one to beat heading into PyeongChang. Germany’s Heidi Zacher, Switzerland’s Fanny Smith and a strong Canadian team will be among her toughest competition in this unpredictable sport.
In 2017, Naeslund became the youngest-ever ski cross world champion at age 20.
Off the snow
Naeslund sometimes enjoys exchanging her ski poles for fishing poles.
Facebook: Sandra Näslund – Skicross