No more come-backs for Lina Johansson


Photos © EMJO

Lina Johansson, one of Sweden’s most promising skaters, announced last season her final decision to leave competitive skating. Lina has had a rocky career. Struggling with injuries from an early stage, she made two come-backs when in September 2007 she actually said goodbye to skating stating, “l will never come back!” She felt she had nothing more to give to figure skating and felt no joy skating anymore. Then in the 2008/2009 season she surprisingly came back … and left once again…

I asked her to do this interview to tell her story and how hard and tough it is to be a skater.

What a grey and rainy day it was when she came to visit me this time… a ring on the doorbell and there she appeared, relaxed and shining, just like the first time I met her some four years ago. I remember that very well - Lina had just come 2nd at the junior Grand Prix Final, a 16 year old skater from my own home town, Malmö! I was in shock and so was she.

We started out talking about her recent come-back attempt after saying so firmly “never” in 2007.

I came back after an 8 month break when I started to work with Andrea Doheni (Kristoffer Berntsson’s coach) in 2008.

I´ve had a job and done other things and it was very hard to talk about figure skating. One day I was on the ice and something unexpected happened; it felt great. I had missed it!

I talked to Andrea and after thinking about it, I decided 2 months later to give it a try. We started training and then Andrea told me that I would be skating in the closing ceremony during the World Championships in Göteborg. She never asked me, she just told me that I should! Skating there gave me a new kick. I was interviewed then by Swedish television but I revealed nothing about my new plans. I wanted to make sure expectations wouldn’t rise… Then I went to a camp in Göteborg first and then to a camp in LA for 3 weeks which was very different from what I was used to.

How do you mean different?

You are with about 30 people on the ice at the same time. We all stood in line for skating our programs and everyone did triples. Some times you could wait 30 min to skate.

In LA all my triples came back. Some of the jumps were already there in March including the double Axel, which has never been my favourite jump at competitions. I practised jumps extra hard. It started to hurt my left foot, the one that was fractured before. I thought it was stress, overstrained.

I continued to train but couldn’t go on the ice at the Swedish team camp in September because it hurt so much. I rested, started again but nobody could tell me what was wrong with my foot. One day it was ok, second day it hurt, third day I could not walk! I went to two competitions, did awful but it felt great. It was so fun to be back.

Then I would be going to the Swedish nationals but had to go off the ice and instead of competing, I went to the hospital for an X-ray. It showed a stress fracture, which meant I had to rest three weeks and then give it a try (as I very well know by now -ed).

So I did, after three weeks I went to the gym but I couldn’t even do that without pain! Back to the hospital but nothing had changed so for it to get better they told me I needed surgery and they weren’t sure if that was going to help me. On top of this I had been sick with a cold for a week, been ok one week and then sick again. It had been like that from September till December, which meant I lacked lots of physical training.

So now I feel like enough is enough. I found my way back to the joy I used to feel when skating and that is most important to me! Now I can think about figure skating as something really positive and a great part of my life that I am really proud of. Therefore I feel this is it!

I’m especially proud of my junior years. My only wish is that I could’ve made it to top 10 at Euros as a senior, but then again that was the time when my injuries came.

Does it feel like a waste of time, all these years in figure skating?

Some days I think “I should never have quit that first time" (in ‘07) because I wanted to achieve more than I did.

I had just turned 14 when I went to my first JGP competition. Now afterwards I know what I could have done, turned into, then all the injuries came. I got my first stress fracture at 16. It lasted one year, got all the jumps back, was in good shape, broke my other foot. I was gone for another 6 months but skated at Euros, did really bad, I don’t know what I was doing there. I had only one month to get in shape, my whole calf muscle was gone due to the shoe cast I had to wear. I was so heavily criticised for the bad result at Euros that I thought “No! I will show them!” I got a new spark.

I practised really hard, terribly hard, extra training before the actual training hour. Many times I fell exhausted on the floor at home but I didn’t give up, it was blood, sweat and tears, I had made my decision to come back in full capacity. That summer at the camp it all came back. I felt great!

I skated the next year but said goodbye in March. I had pushed myself hard. If you are not in the top it is no good. If you miss a couple of jumps it means everything. I felt a lot of pressure from others around me to do well. If I had a bad practise, I got panicky, “I have to get better”. And then there is also everything else around figure skating, how you look like and so on.

Now when I started again this last time, I had no pressure. I thought it will take the time it takes even if it meant a bad practise day, accept it. Before I didn’t leave the ice until I had done the jump, now I thought oh well that was it, today. I wanted things to happen fast but Andrea was great there, she calmed me down. But all that’s history now.

So what happens now?

I am working at a gym in the reception, but I am planning to take classes so I don’t watch much figure skating on tv. I don’t have the time. I heard Joshi (Helgesson) got fourth place and Sasha (Majorov) fourteenth at Junior Worlds and that is really great.

I was 7th … back in 2003. I competed against Miki Ando, Carolina Kostner, Kimmie Meissner, Mao Asada. So it was not easy. The big stars have always been my contenders. It was tough from juniors to now.

How about working as a coach?

Yes, I would like that. To start out with the little ones that would be so fun and also to be on the ice…

What can you give the skaters?

Well, I do know how it feels to be in a big competition with all the expectations. Tell the skaters, that it is not so easy all the time. I know how it feels when times are hard and not going the way you or others have expected. I have done all the triples and know how it feels. Perhaps I can teach them some technique like to not think so much while jumping.

As a junior I never thought as much over what came next after a jump. My thoughts where somewhere else, like “what will I do tonight?” I didn’t think about how to do the things, I just did!

Too bad I didn’t continue with that as a senior, but then the injuries came and I got more careful and with the big competitions the pressure increased.

When did the press exactly set eyes on you?

After winning a couple of Junior Grand Prix competitions the phone started ringing. Friends too, they said “Hey, don’t you understand? You won a JGP!” But I didn’t understand and neither did my family. I was asked by the Swedish skating association to go to Germany for a competition. I came in fourth place, which was a big disappointment for me. All that counted for me was the first or the second place but everyone else said I had done really well. Then I came to the Junior Grand Prix Final 2002.

I had no idea it was such a big competition. The Americans came to me and asked if I was Lina Johansson. Later at Junior Worlds I came in 7th place and that’s when all the newspapers started writing about me. Then I understood.

The year after it was JGPF again, but then I knew it was big. I was compared to Miki Ando in the newspapers and I had no clue why. There was a photo of me on one side and Miki on the other with the headline “WHO WILL WIN?” For me it was obvious that Miki would, without a doubt, so why compare me with her? I expected to be in the lower part of the result list but then I turned up in 1 st place after the short program so I was told not to read the newspapers.

Well, I never did that anyway, just checked out the photos. When I ended up in second place, wow there was a big whoopla. I went to Euros and Worlds which is huge!

It sure is! How about team skating then?

No, not my thing at all but I have tried. It is too complicated with precise turns and so on. When I was younger I wanted to be in pairs. It was before I had all the jumps at 12. I was not fully rotated at them yet, but then the Axel came and the Salchow, so single skating it was.

You know, this time when I quit, it is those moments I remember: the fun ones. Last time when I left figure skating I never gave that a single thought. Everything was a pain then so now I feel much better. It is time to do other things in life and there is so much to do but still…

I want to thank my family for all the support during the years, Andrea and the others up in Göteborg and Ioana at Absolute Skating for a great website.

Great potential lost to pressure, injuries and well… life. I will miss Lina as a skater and wish her the best in life, as do all others at AS. And who knows, maybe till a next time, behind the boards of an ice rink?

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