For some years now, skiing legend Ingemar Stenmark has no longer been the only star from Tärnaby, a village of 500 people in the north of Sweden. In 1999, a young woman named Anja Pärson won her first World Cup race in the Californian sunshine. Ten years at the top of world skiing has resulted in an impressive collection of Olympic and world medals for Anja: 16 in all!
On her way, Anja from Sweden encountered Janica the Croat. Pärson and Kostelic, a formidable rivalry which drove the pair to dominate the world of alpine skiing. For Anja, the Olympic Games began in 2002 in Salt Lake City. Like most Scandinavians, she excelled in the technical events, winning two Olympic medals, silver in the giant slalom (behind Kostelic) and bronze in the slalom. As time went on, the Swede improved in the speed events. In 2006 at the Games in Turin, she placed third in the combined, a performance she repeated in the downhill. But slalom was still her favourite event. On 22 February 2006, Anja Pärson won the Olympic slalom…and her first gold medal.
The following year, at the World Championships held at Åre, in her home country of Sweden, she finished on the podium in all her races, three of the five in first place. She became the first female alpine skier in history to be world champion in all the events. In 2008, her victory in the combined at Crans Montana in Switzerland took her into the exclusive circle of women skiers who have won all five events of the World Cup (slalom, special slalom, combined, super-G and downhill).
In Vancouver, Anja was hoping to excel once more. It was now in the speed events that she could best display her talent. In the downhill, she was on course for a medal but lost her balance on the last jump and fell over more than 60 metres. It looked worse than it was, but the champion was badly shaken. The next day, she overcame her fear and was back on the course at Whistler for the combined. This time, there was no fall and a splendid third place. This bronze was her sixth Olympic medal. With seven small and large crystal globes and 41 World Cup victories, the bomb from Tärnaby is quite simply one of the greatest female skiers.
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