Swedish ‘Ski shooting’ – the king of the hybrids

In the Swedish town of Östersund, the World Championships in biathlon is currently taking place. For the uninitiated of you, the biathlon is a winter sport that combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting. In Swedish, it is called ‘skidskytte’ – literally ‘ski shooting’. The sport is a race where the contestant with the shortest total time wins. Depending on the competition, missed shots result in extra distance or time being added to the contestant’s total.

The biathlon is an example of a hybrid sport – one which combines two or more sports in order to create a new sport. Waterpolo, which combines swimming and handball, is another example. Biathlon is the king of the hybrids as it is the only one to be recognised as an Olympic sport.

As usual, I got curious about what other hybrid sports exist. So I did some research. Here are some of the, according to me, funniest ones:

Bossaball – combines the many elements of volleyball, football, gymnastics and the Brazilian martial art Capoeira. Strangely, it is played on an inflatable field with 2 trampolines at each side of the net. These allow players per side to bounce high to spike or touch the ball.

Chess boxing – weirdly combines the sport of boxing with games of chess in alternating rounds. Chess boxing fights have been organized since early 2003.

Darchery – combines darts and archery, using crossbows and arrows typically used for archery, but the target is a dart board.

Footgolf – combines football with golf. Players kick a football into large holes placed around a golf course.

Headis – combines table tennis and football. Players use their heads to hit a football across the table tennis table and net. Sounds exhausting.

Kronum – combines handball, football, basketball and rugby played on a circular field with four goals at each end.

Octopush – combines swimming, diving and hockey. Players try to push around a hockey puck at the bottom of a swimming pool. The goal is to shoot the puck with a small, curved piece of wood into the opposing team’s goal.     

Do you play any of these sports? Or do you play another hybrid sport? Let me know!

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The world’s longest cross country ski race – Sweden’s ‘Vasalopp’.


Today, the world’s longest cross country ski race takes place in Sweden. Called Vasaloppet, it entails participants skiing 90 kilometers from start to finish. It’s an extremely popular international race, which can take up to 12 hours to complete, and which is broadcast live on tv. When tickets to participate are released, they sell out in 15 minutes – it’s that popular.

The first Vasalopp was in 1922 and it takes place annually, the first Sunday in March and it is a first sign of spring.  It’s an amazing sight to watch, as more than 15000 mad, happy skiers glide along, the swishing sound of ski on snow filling the air.

For the elite athletes, 12 hours to complete the race is of course unthinkable. They go considerably faster. The person who has completed the race fastest is Jörgen Brink, who in 2012 won the race in just over 3 hours 40 minutes, roughly 25 km per hour.

So why is this race called the Vasalopp? Well, it takes its name from a Swedish king. The race commemorates the escape to Norway, through the forest, of King Gustav Vasa in 1521. Legend has it that he carried out the gruelling journey on skis,  but experts believe he more likely completed this escape on snow shoes.

Nevertheless, out of this legend sprung the race which is so popular today.

Modern day skiers don’t see the experience as an escape, they see it as a challenge and for many of them it’s a rite of passage.

And as you sit watching the TV comfortably from the sofa, with tea and toast, you take vicarious pleasure in this long, amazing Swedish race.

Ski crazy Swedes


Tonight the skiing World Cup came to Sweden where, in Stockholm, elite skiers competed in parallel slalom. It was fun to be there, on the packed stands and see all the Swedish flags waving as Swedish skiers Hargin and Hansdotter competed. The competition took place on Hammarbybacken, which is a ski slope in the city. 
Hammarbybacken is a man-made ski resort built from rubble and refuse, towering in the southern part of Stockholm city. Building commenced in the 1950’s and finished in 1990. At 93.5 meters high, it’s a popular weekend destination for outdoorsy Stockholmers. And tonight, there were around 8000 of them there, cheering and shouting into the cold January night. 

The Swedish skiers didn’t win. But the spectators left the event having witnessed a fantastic winter sport event in their very own capital city. 

Why do Swedes have a winter sport break? 

Around this time of the year, schools have a week’s holiday. Called Sportlov it’s a traditional time for a winter sport break. 

This tradition was introduced in 1940 and was initially a way to save energy. Heating up schools cost money and, due to rationing, councils were instructed to drastically reduce their heating expenses. To give the pupils something meaningful to do while the school was shut, the authorities organised various activities, many focused on being outdoors and exercising. During the 50’s, experts realised that infection spread less widely at this time of the year if schools were closed for a week. So the winter sport break became cemented and an official disease control method. 

Nowadays, many families head off to the mountains to go skiing, some head off to the Alps for the same purpose.

For those of us left in town, it’s sheer bliss. 

There is hardly anybody on the buses and tube, traffic is significantly thinner and less noisy and it’s easy to get a seat at lunch time. 

And the fact that there are hardly any children in town means the rest of us don’t get infected with kid flu bacteria on our way to work. 

Swedish snow champion!

kalla

Many Swedes are great sport-lovers. And surprisingly for a country with a small population, they’re relatively successful. Right now, winter sports are in focus as Sweden hosts the World Championship in Cross-Country Skiing.

It’s hard to believe when you’re sitting in sunny, un-icy Stockholm that there is any snow elsewhere in the country. But there is and today, Sweden won gold! Popular skier Charlotte Kalla demolished the competition and won a gruelling 10km race in pouring snow. She won with a 41 second margin, which is significant in this sport and she slammed the Norwegians who normally rule the roost in cross-country ski sports.

A glimpse at the current media gives an indication of how important this is to Swedes and what an acheivement it is:

‘GOLD EXTRA! Kalla – a Dream come true!’

‘Kalla’s Gold crush – now she’s the best’

‘Charlotte Kalla’s magnificent gold achievement’

‘Gold! She crushed the opposition!’

‘Kalla crushed the competition at her favourite distance race’

With all this crushing, it’s easy to see that this is huge in Sweden – a victory on home turf – and in that moment Charlotte Kalla just became the nation’s powerhouse sweetheart.