Nothing has gone to plan for Swedish skier Zebastian Modin in recent months.
Guide problems, health issues, the constant challenge of operating as an elite athlete in a Covid world… or a “few bumps in the road” as the vision impaired three-time Paralympian describes it.
Modin, who made his Games debut at Vancouver 2010 as a 15-year-old where he came third in the cross-country sprint race, had dreamed of adding a Nordic skiing gold medal to the three silvers and two bronzes he has already collected.
That was just last spring. Since then, he has had to recalibrate.
“Last spring, of course a medal,” Modin said. “I have been in the top three to top five in most of my races so that was a realistic goal. Still I hope for a medal but the chances have probably decreased.
“First my guide [Robin Bryntesson], who I trained with last season, he got some health problems so he had to stop training. I had to find someone.
“He was the main guy. Now Emil [Jonsson] has saved the season for me when we realised Robin was not going to get back. Emil was meant to be a complementary guy this season, to join the Paralympics in case anything happened to Robin but he has stepped in.
“Then I got problems in the summer with a hip so I had problems doing some kinds of training and I have been forced to adapt. I have been doing a lot of indoor training, cycling and stuff. Last year was hard mentally with no races but the summer and autumn has been challenging in logistics.”
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Modin had an injection before Christmas to slow down inflammation in his hip and he admits he is simply trying to heal while his rivals are training at capacity.
The Swede has always liked a challenge, however, which is why he agreed to participate in an annual mass event 90km race in Vasaloppet two years ago, just before Covid struck.
“It was the first time I raced long distance and I made some mistakes. My drink belt froze. There was almost no snow weeks before and then it came 10cm in the night so no tracks. With 80km left it was so tough mentally and I was happy I just completed the race.”
Modin will draw on that strength as he targets the Paralympic Winter Games and then the 2023 World Championships in his home town of Ostersund.
It has been a long journey from Vancouver 2010 to Beijing 2022 and Modin has seen lots of changes, including welcome funding from the Swedish Parasport Federation. He became a full-time athlete only a year ago after completing his Master’s in Business Administration.
“It is so much better than compared to three years ago. The funding has grown hugely and that is something that impacts me as I have to pay a guide.
“I was very excited to become a professional athlete and then it was less competitions, less training camps and less travelling which I had looked forward to.”
Modin reveals his original plan was to call it a day after the Games but that the venue for the World Championships has caused a rethink.
“Beijing was the end of the journey in this plan that I set up a couple of years ago. Now I am heading to my hometown championships. I have been doing this for a long time. I am getting more picky in how things should be.
“I want to know I can really focus to reach the top and compete with the best and that is what drives me. But I want to restructure everything after Beijing.”