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Artikel: Life as a World Champion - with Malin Hjalmarsson

Life as a World Champion - with Malin Hjalmarsson

Life as a World Champion - with Malin Hjalmarsson

Say hello to Malin Hjalmarsson! An intriguing woman with over 20 years of experience as a military officer and a passion for adventure. Her interest in extreme sports was sparked when she first had the opportunity to explore the Swedish mountains during her time in the military. Since then, she has participated in various multisport events and successfully competed in Adventure Racing, recently becoming a world champion. 


Malin Hjalmarsson

 Photo by @swedishcombatcamera

Hello Malin! You are a military officer, multisport athlete, and mother, and recently won the award for Adventurer of the Year, what else should we know about you?

That summarizes me quite well! I enrolled in officer training immediately after completing my national service and have worked in that capacity for exactly 20 years. I thrive best outdoors, which perhaps aligns well with both my profession and choice of sports. However, in everyday life, it doesn't necessarily need to be extreme; I find just as much enjoyment in frying waffles in the shelter we have in the garden, as long as I'm outdoors. Additionally, I often boast about winning two Swedish Championship gold medals in girls' football (when I was 15) from my previous career as a football player. Although I was certainly not the star of the team, but rather the one running on the sideline, someone had to do that job.

In October 2023, as part of Team SAFAT (Swedish Armed Forces Adventure Team), you became world champions in the Adventure Racing World Series. An 800 km long adventure through the challenging nature of South Africa, competing against 108 multisport teams from around the world. Wow, congratulations again! 

How did your interest in extreme sports begin?

I studied to be an officer in Östersund and there I got to explore the Swedish mountains for the first time, other than during the winter on the ski slopes. After that, I tried to spend as much free time in the mountains as possible. I tested running some mountain races and the longer the distance, the better I did. In 2003, some colleagues were supposed to compete in a multisport race in Värmland, where I'm from, but one got sick and I had to step in at short notice. At that time, I had just bought my first mountain bike and hadn't paddled much, but I could run, so I decided to go for it. I think we were out for 48 hours, made every mistake possible, and were sore all over, but still, it was the most fun I had ever had. Since then, it's just been rolling on.

Malin Hjalmarsson adventure racing

 Photo by @swedishcombatcamera

What is your strongest memory from the competition?

It's the finish line of this race. The final stretch took so much longer than we had estimated, so we didn't know if we were still in the lead or had lost it until we reached the last checkpoint a few kilometers before the finish. So it was very emotional when we realized that we would manage to reclaim the gold, something we had trained for for an entire year. Also, we're not used to such a commotion around our races. Usually, you finish in the middle of the night and only the closest relatives are forced to stay awake. Here, the whole town was out to welcome us, singing and dancing, and we were received like superheroes. So I tried to tell myself, "enjoy this moment, Malin, you probably won't experience this again." It was amazing.

 In your team, there are three men and one woman. Why do you think mixed-gender teams compete in contrast to all other sporting competitions? 

There aren't many sports where men and women compete on equal terms, but in Adventure Racing, it has always been that way. Initially, I believe it was seen as adding another dimension to the sport, making it even more complex. It would have been easier and more homogeneous if teams competed within their own genders, but now men were forced to find a woman willing to accept the rules of the game. 

In our team, as I mentioned, I am the woman, but gender is secondary. We are all part of the same unit, with a common goal: to get from start to finish as quickly as possible.

Malin Hjalmarsson adventure racing

 Photo by @swedishcombatcamera

How has participating in and winning Adventure Races affected you as a person?

As a person, the sport itself has made me more humble. The only thing you know when you stand at the starting line is that problems will arise, and it's the team that handles and solves these problems the best that wins. This could mean that you can be incredibly strong and carry anything one moment, only to be so weak the next that you just want to curl up in a fetal position and cry.

Our team was formed in 2014 with a common goal: to become the best in the world. It took us 7 years, so if anything, it has taught me to never give up.

That we have now succeeded twice is absolutely fantastic. So, with a lot of patience, training, perseverance, and endurance, it is possible to achieve your dreams. You just have to be willing to let it take some time.

 If someone reads this and feels, "oh, how exciting this sounds," what would you recommend as simpler entry points to multisport?

Don't make it too complicated. You don't have to own all the equipment yourself; you can borrow or rent it. And there are many short races around Sweden where you can try out the sport, so just do it. If you search for Swedish multisport, there's a website that summarizes all the events in Sweden, which is a good starting point.

 Favorite places in the Nordic region for nature experiences?

There are so many, and we have fantastic nature in the Nordic countries. But to mention a few:

Paddling a kayak in the Stockholm archipelago, preferably in the outermost areas.

We spend a lot of time in the Jämtland mountains, so that's still a favorite as it's so easily accessible.

Then we did a race starting in Åre and finishing in Ålesund, and the whole race was pure propaganda over 600 km in what is beautiful. Cycling up Trollstigen at 03:00, without traffic but with the midnight sun, is recommended.

Malin Hjalmarsson adventure racing

 Photo by @sweidshcombatcamera

Is there any clothing or equipment you miss as a female multisport athlete or in your military role?

As a multi-sport athlete, I have yet to find the ultimate shorts and always resort to using men's models. Women's shorts are often very short in the legs, which I don't appreciate in the terrain I typically move in.

As a military member, I would have liked to have comfortable underwear without seams that chafe or cut in, with the appropriate safety classification. Even here, I use men's models as they fit me better than the women's models available. But apparently, new ones are on the way, so I keep my fingers crossed that these will be good. I also want to thank you for the great work you do in promoting women and outdoor life; we need more like you.

 Would you like to see more of Malin's adventures? Check out TV4's new documentary here

 Thank you so much, Malin, for sharing your inspiring story and experiences! We wish you continued success in your adventures and look forward to hearing more about your exciting experiences in the future. If you want to read about more adventurous women, we recommend this.

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