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ST: You recently changed your teammate. What led to this decision at such a late stage in race preparations? Have you trained or raced with your new teammate before?
PK: Simply put, it just wasn’t working with me and Nico (editor’s note: Nico is Nicolas Remires). The team element is an interesting twist to this sport, particularly if one’s goals are high. It’s so important to form a team where the base values, personalities and experience are aligned. And at the end of the day, it’s gotta be fun. I am so stoked to be racing with Oscar Olsson. He’s got such a great attitude and is so much fun to train and race with. Time has obviously been a little tight for us but we’ve had a few crash course training and strategy sessions together and things are really clicking.
ST: Can you give our readers an idea of why one teammate might not work out but why another might be a good fit? Do you want someone of similar abilities or someone to off-set the other person’s weaknesses?
PK: This is actually a hard question to answer. Building a good ÖTILLÖ team is like building a personal relationship. Sometimes there is chemistry, other times not. Most important is that the two teammates really click, want to race with, and for, one another and have mutual motives for racing together.
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ST: Gear and equipment selection is important in this race. Knowing you must carry whatever you use all the way from start to finish what equipment do you race with.
PK: Our philosophy is to travel light. We race with the new HEAD Aero swimrun wetsuit, inov-8 Talon 190 shoes, Suunto Ambit timing system, Strokemaker hand paddles and customized flotation. Anything else is just extra baggage.
ST: As a former pro triathlete yourself, how do you find the addition of high profile triathletes like Faris Al-Sultan and Chris McCormack to this year’s race? What is the biggest challenge triathletes tend to face when racing ÖTILLÖ for the first time?
PK: It’s really great these guys are interested in the sport. I’ve actually had some contact with Faris and I get the impression he’s taking the race seriously. He’s gonna make things interesting. Obviously these guys have the pure fitness to destroy the field. But the reality is that swimrun is a totally different sport from triathlon. It’s like comparing road running to mountain running. To do well at this sport, and ÖTILLÖ specifically, one has to specialize. Get out on the course, get used to the cold water, twist an ankle or two on the rocks and get lost in the forest. But give respect where respect is due, Faris and Chris are two of the most accomplished athletes in the world, so it’s gonna be interesting.
ST: You have mentioned dealing with jelly fish while training on the ÖTILLÖ course in recent weeks. What are some of the other most challenging factors you have been faced with on race day in the past?
PK: Yeah, the jelly fish just kinda showed up this year. I’ve never seen so many before. Otherwise I think I touched on the challenging factors in the previous questions: the varied and extreme running terrain, the cold and wavy water, and the ability to adjust and be flexible between all of these conditions. And then the team element is extremely important. Each partner is going to have rough patches at some point in the race and it’s important to be able to support each other through the tough times. This is a lot easier said than done but can be totally decisive.
ST: Since your first win at ÖTILLÖ in 2013 how have you seen the sport change?
PK: The sport is growing, this is not a question, and for good reason. The progressions I see are in the training and specializing and focus on the sport of swimrun. In my opinion, it used to be more of a fun thing triathletes did at the end of the tri season. But now athletes are parking their bikes early to focus purely on swimrun. And the gear is getting so much better now, particularly the wetsuits and shoes. I look forward to being an old man and looking back at the sport of swimrun and saying ‘back in my day…..’
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ST: In watching a replay from the finish of last year’s ÖTILLÖ, you look absolutely destroyed, despite a rather significant winning margin over the runners up, with the effort you put forth to regain the title. Can you share how winning this race is viewed in Sweden?
PK: ÖTILLÖ is a big race in Sweden. Swedes take a lot of pride in sport, particularly the national classics, of which ÖTILLÖ is one, and winning a big race earns a lot of respect, even in a professional and workplace setting. I didn't really understand this until after the win in 2013. All of a sudden there were definitely a lot of interviews and sponsors, but the cool thing is that Swedes really appreciate the commitment and effort that goes into sport. I find it to be very different from North America in that regard. All that said, this race is a personal thing for me and probably most others too. There’s just something very special about ÖTILLÖ!
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A few questions with Oscar Olsson
ST: How was it you were a free agent and available for Paul needing a teammate so close to race day?
OO: At first my main focus is triathlon even though I do some swimruns when the right opportunity is given. I was available because I didn’t have it in my race schedule and now that Björn Englund (editor’s note: Englund was Paul’s teammate and a multiple time ÖTILLÖ winner) stopped racing I didn’t know anyone I was comfortable racing with. But through Björn I got to know Paul and when a spot opened up, I felt at once I wanted to give it a go!
ST: Can you share a bit of your background and past experience at ÖTILLÖ? What are your strengths and weaknesses?
OO: I have won Ö-Loppet, the largest Swimrun in Sweden, three years in a row. I was teamed up with Swedish Ironman winner Ted Ås for two of those wins and with Björn (Englund) once. Also a runner-up finish at Utö Swimrun in 2015 with Björn.
Otherwise I haven’t done much in swimrun. I have no experience in ÖTILLÖ so I will rely on my experienced teammate!
My strength is my endurance capacity. Typically, the longer the race, the better I do. Also, I just love racing. My weaknesses is my lack of experience racing this special course!
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Krochak and Olsson will be competing at ÖTILLÖ under the team name Team HEAD Swimming. The duo is sponsored by HEAD Swimming, inov-8 footwear and Suunto.