Helene Ripa

Helene Ripa

Canoe | Nordic Skiing

After her leg was amputated above the knee in 1986 due to cancer, Ripa initially swam competitively for her country at the Barcelona 1992 Paralympic Games.

But in just three seasons on the competitive Para Nordic skiing circuit, Ripa has won gold at a Paralympic Winter Games and has medalled at two World Championships.

Having debuted in 2012, the Swede went onto win the sprint classic world title on home snow in only her second major international competition. The following season, Ripa was to come second at the World Cup Finals in Sochi, giving her rivals an indication of what they could expect on the same trails just over one year later.

Ripa, a graphic designer by trade, originally tried Para Nordic skiing in 2006 when she was on holiday. Encouraged by her husband, she eventually found a prosthetic that felt good enough and decided to go for the Paralympic dream once again.

It was indeed at Sochi 2014 that Ripa really began to shine. Beating Ukrainian Paralympic silver medallist Iullia Batenkova into first place by a fraction of a second in the long distance classic, Ripa had firmly made her mark on the women’s standing field.

She will try to do that again at the 2017 World Para Nordic Skiing Championships in Finsterau, Germany, against her rival from recent seasons, Oleksandra Kononova of Ukraine.


Impairment information

Type of Impairment
Limb deficiency
Origin of Impairment

Further personal information

Husband Ronnie Pettersson
English, Swedish
Higher education
Graphic Design - Stockholm University: Sweden

Sport specific information

When and where did you begin this sport?
She took up the sport in 2015.
Why this sport?
"Paddling started to supplement my cross-country skiing. I needed something new to push me to continue to train hard. After encouragement from the Swedish Canoe Federation, in September 2015 I started a serious commitment to the [2016] World Championships in Duisburg with the hope of taking a quota place for the Paralympic Games in 2016 in Rio. I love the freedom of paddling, enjoying nature and the beautiful surroundings. There is nothing better than to train outdoors, whether it's on the water or on snow. The combination of long, peaceful recreational workouts to replenish your energy and tough interval workouts where the lactic acid sprays are the best of both worlds."
Club / Team
Haninge SOK: Stockholm, SWE

General interest

Mountain biking, swimming. (Facebook page, 24 Aug 2016;, 28 Nov 2019)
Most influential person in career
Her husband Ronnie Pettersson. (Athlete, 07 Mar 2014;, 01 Jan 2017)
Hero / Idol
Swedish cross-country skier Daniel Richardsson. (Athlete, 07 Mar 2014)
In March 2019 she had surgery on a herniated disc and did not return to competition until 2021. (, 15 May 2021)

In October 2014 she strained muscles in her foot while training. (, 23 Jan 2016)
Sporting philosophy / motto
"Everything is possible." (Athlete, 07 Mar 2014)
Awards and honours
She was Sweden's flag bearer at the closing ceremony of the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi. (, 16 Mar 2014)
Other sports
She competed in swimming at the 1992 Paralympic Games in Barcelona. She won a gold and a silver medal in cross-country skiing at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi. (, 28 Nov 2019;, 01 Dec 2016; SportsDeskOnline, 10 Aug 2021)
To win a medal at the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo. (, 11 May 2021)
Her right leg was amputated above the knee in 1986 after she was diagnosed with cancer. "When I was 14, I had problems with pain in my right knee. It was not so bad at first, but the pain and swelling got worse and worse. After about six months I was referred to hospital, where it was discovered that I had cancer and my leg was amputated. I had no chemotherapy or radiation, just Interferon intramuscularly once a day for five years, as well as blood tests and chest X-rays once a month for the first year and later more often. I was declared healthy after 10 years." (Facebook page, 24 Aug 2016; Athlete, 07 Mar 2014;, 02 Feb 2014)
Other information
In 2019 she required surgery on a herniated disc, and so if the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo had gone ahead as planned in 2020 she would have been unable to compete. She turns age 50 two days before the opening ceremony of the Games. "It was great that it was pushed back for me considering that I had surgery on my neck in March 2019 and I was in a bit of a hurry to catch up with the qualifiers. I can get more speed in my paddling so I would say that I am in the best shape I have ever been." (, 11 May 2021)


Unit Date Rank
IPC Nordic Skiing World Championships Solleftea (Solleftea, Sweden)
Event Medal Unit Date Rank
Women's Sprint - Classic Standing Final 2013-02-25 1
Women's Long Distance - Free Style Standing Final 2013-02-27 9999
Women's Middle Distance - Classic Standing Final 2013-03-05 3
Paralympic Winter Games 2014 (Sochi, Russia)
Event Medal Unit Date Rank
Women's 15 km Standing Final Round 2014-03-10 1
Women's 1 km Sprint Standing Qualification 2014-03-12 15
4x2.5 km Mixed Relay Final Round 2014-03-15 2
Women's 5 km Standing Final Round 2014-03-16 15
2015 IPC Nordic Skiing World Championships Cable (Cable, United States of America)
Event Medal Unit Date Rank
Women's Sprint - Classic Standing Race 1 2015-01-28 2
Women's Middle Distance - Classic Standing Race 1 2015-01-31 3
Rio 2016 Paralympic Games (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
Event Medal Unit Date Rank
Women's KL3 Heat 1 2016-09-14 3
Women's KL3 Semifinal 2016-09-14 2
Women's KL3 Final 2016-09-15 5
2017 IPC Nordic skiing World Championships Finsterau, GER (Finsterau, Germany)
Event Medal Unit Date Rank
Women's Sprint - Free Style Standing Final 2017-02-12 12
Mixed Relay Final 2017-02-15 2
Women's Long Distance - Classic Standing Final 2017-02-16 7