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An Australian Cross Country Skier in the 2022 Olympics?

After months of early morning workouts and dark, cold and sludgy ski trainings, what did Australian Nikola learn about cross country skiing?

An Australian Cross Country Skier in the 2022 Olympics?
An Australian Cross Country Skier in the 2022 Olympics?

As with most things in life, when presented with an opportunity I immediately think, how far can I take this … So once I found out that I had been selected for the Yllas-Levi 70km Ski Classics I began writing my acceptance speech for the 2022 Olympics gold medal.

This post is written by Nikola Svabø, one of the contestants in Project Ylläs-Levi.

After many months of early morning workouts and many dark, cold and sludgy ski trainings – I am now proudly parading around the streets of Oslo in my Visma Ylläs Levi medal and my dream of an Olympics is still swirling around in my subconscious.

What I learnt – A dummies guide to cross country skiing

Seek professional help

One of the most valued benefits of taking part in this project were the countless hours of one-to-one training that I received to support my journey. Tor Eirik Thurmer Ombustvedt at Lyn Ski Club has been a great mentor and motivator who patiently and repetitively took me through the basics of skiing.

Double Poling:

Double poling skiing


Diagonal skiing

Felleski vs Wax Ski


During all my training right up until two weeks before the race day I had used my felleski as the conditions were excellent.


  • They provided excellent grip in the right conditions on the uphills
  • I did not have to learn the intricacies of waxing and spend time before and after training prepping and cleaning the skis
  • I was able to diagonal Stride on almost all steep uphill which saved time and kept the pace going


  • Snow can bunch up in skins in warmer snow
  • Double Poling exerted a lot more energy and had a lot less glide than those using waxed skis this proved difficult on long flat stretches.
  • Not quite as fast as high end waxed classics on the downhill.

Wax Skis

In the final weeks leading up to the race, I was able to borrow wax skis to trial these before the race, the warmer weather and tougher conditions resulted in a few pros and cons.


  • Double polling became much easier and the glide was excellent
  • The speed on the downhills was great


  • My ability to diagonal ski uphill completely went away so I had to fish leg quite a lot more.
  • Preparing the skis was challenging as the conditions changed quite a lot during the day

Results: After analysing the track, I decided to use the Wax Skis as Ylläs-Levi has quite steep uphills which require a lot of fish-leg technique and also the track has a 30 km stretch of flat, so I really wanted to utilise the speed of the double poling during this time.

Read more: Project Ylläs-Levi: Things are heating up in Oslo.

Fall a lot

If you are anything like me and afraid of fast down hills, my advice to you is to purposely fall over on smaller downhills, this strategy (although for me it was less a strategy and more a result of my skiing abilities) will both remind you that falling on ice is not as painful as you may think, and also train your arms and legs to fall in strategic ways to avoid injury.

Find a great training partner

During my training sessions at Lyn Ski club having the support of Mikael and someone to laugh with made the time really enjoyable, even on those evenings when it was dark, -15 degrees and snowing in our faces and for this I would like to send a final thank you!

My husband accompanied and helped me plan each long ski trip leading up to the race which, again made each experience both memorable and exciting with each new route letting me see something new in Oslo.

On the race day, my husband also competed by my side, which gave me an extra boost of support during the harder miles, he also reminded me to eat and drink at regular intervals. So my advice is that although it is nice to be a strong and independent woman, sometimes it is also ok to have someone carry your bags.

Nicola and Mikael

Butterflies on Race Day

Whilst my acceptance speech is almost perfect, give or take a few political jokes that may need to be revised at the time of presentation, I will admit that the 2026 Olympics is perhaps more realistic.

However, I think that I can confidently say that this race and opportunity may have been the most difficult physical challenge that I have faced, the most nervous I have been leading up to a race, but it has also been the most rewarding experience as I have made some great friends and am now one step closer to becoming a Norwegian.

One thing that I know for certain is that without the incredible support that I have received from co-competitors, Benedikte and the Project Ylläs Levi team, my family and friends, I may have disappeared back to a beach in Australia in hiding.