Olympic cross country skiing champion Stina Nilsson has announced that she will switch disciplines to biathlon for the 2020-21 season. After missing the second half of the last World Cup campaign with a rib stress fracture, the Swede has been testing herself out on the shooting range during her recovery. Nilsson quits cross country skiing as one of the top athletes of her generation.
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With 23 wins out of 41 podium finishes from 108 World Cup starts, the 26-year-old suffered a rib injury in the first leg of the Tour de Ski which was later diagnosed as a stress fracture necessitating six months rest. After her team sprint bronze at Sochi 2014, Nilsson won four medals at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games including gold in the individual sprint.
She was mighty close to a second gold in the team sprint, but Jessie Diggins just beat her to the line to secure the title for the United States. While sprinting was clearly her favored discipline, she showed she could mix it with the best over longer distances with bronze in the 30km Classical mass start in PyeongChang, and victory over Therese Johaug in the Quebec World Cup 10km mass start last March.
She told fis-ski.com, “My plan was to continue cross country skiing for another Olympics and then switch after 2022. But because of my injury, I have had a lot of time to think and test shoot, and I feel that I really don’t want to wait any longer.”
Nilsson has indicated that she still wants to compete in cross country at a lower level, adding, “I would like to see cross country skiing and Biathlon go a bit hand in hand for me. My ambition is to be able to appear as a guest for my ski club IFK Mora on relay teams in the future.”
While switching from cross-country skiing to biathlon is rare, Nilsson will be hoping to follow the lead of Anfisa Reztsova. Competing initially for the Soviet Union at Calgary 1988, Nemtsova won 4x5km relay gold and 20km freestyle silver in cross country. Now Nilsson has to start from scratch in biathlon with the Swedish Biathlon Association reportedly excited by her move.