Emil Johansson on the rise after returning from illness to dominate mountain biking again
The coronavirus pandemic may have temporarily halted Emil Johansson’s rise to global stardom, but the indefinite delay pales in comparison to the challenges the Swedish starlet has already overcome during his budding career.
Crowned Crankworx Slopestyle World Tour champion in 2017 after a stunning campaign at the age of 18, Johansson was on the fast track to legendary status in mountain biking.
Then came the back pain. First ignored as a minor ailment, after a battery of tests it became clear there was a much bigger problem. Having mysteriously vanished from the scene in early 2018, there were real fears that Johansson might never ride again.
A diagnosis of autoimmune diseases Epstein-Barr and Hashimoto’s disease marked the beginning of Johansson’s road to recovery.
On lessons learned, Johansson says, “I know there’s no guarantee, no matter how good you feel now or how well prepared you are, there’s no guarantee that everything will work out. will go well for you.”
Having missed the entire 2018 season, Johansson suffered a setback days before the 2018 Crankworx Rotorua event, falling off his bike in training and suffering serious illness.
From there, things quickly improved.
Runner-up in slopestyle at Crankworx Innsbruck and then again at the FMB World Tour in Saalbach-Hinterglem, Johansson won the next FMB World Tour event in Canada and an emphatic win at the Red Bull Joyride in Whistler meant this generational talent was on his way. return .
A first-place finish at Crankworx Rotorua in March, the site of his setback just a year before, only cemented his arrival as a new breed of rider. This is where he remains due to the confinement imposed following the coronavirus pandemic.
Once again, Johansson is the darling of the sport. Ari Tibble, Crankworx Rotorua Event Director, says: “The man of the moment is Emil.
“He’s had a lot of challenges and overcome a lot of adversity to get where he is. He’s a cool, calm head, and that can take him all the way to the top.
When it comes to his autoimmune disease, Johansson is aware he has to live with a lifelong condition and admits it now takes him longer to recover from vents or training.
He says, “What I learned with my problem is that there are no guarantees, no matter how good you feel now or how prepared you are, there is no guarantee. has no guarantee that everything will go well.
“I feel better than I have in the past but it’s not something that’s going to go away, it’s important that I try to stay on top and try to take it seriously in terms of concerns my health because otherwise nothing on the bike would really work.
“I’m confident I’m capable of dealing with it, but I can’t say it’s gone because I don’t think it will ever be gone.”
A long time away from the sport had Johansson wondering where his future lay, but after much soul-searching he simply chose to double down in pursuit of what he calls a lifelong dream.
“It’s a very emotional subject, to be honest there weren’t really any answers, but I could only think of coming back, I’m so passionate about it and that’s what drives me, this desire to come back.
“During my free time I took time and thought about what else I could be, what else I could occupy my life with, I definitely put everything in a different perspective.
“Mostly, I started doing a lot of research, how could I feel best? How could I give myself the best possible cards on my hand to raise the shitty ones I had. It was one of the main things I dealt with, nutrition and training, how can I manage to stay healthy if it comes back.
Johansson has already become an icon of his sport for the number of daring tricks he is able to pull off in his slopestyle displays. In Rotorua, despite his long period out of competition, his routine included no less than two new tricks.
He adds: “I don’t see our sports going anywhere other than involving more kids and bringing more joy to everyone’s life, that’s very cool.
“Around the world is only ten years old, when I started cycling, around the world was not a thing, it was just events. Now we have a round the world and bikes that go to the Olympics and people get more serious. I’m so excited about the future now.