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The star of Lake Vättern

Canoeist Sofia Paldanius is one of the most successful athletes of our time, with many medals in her drawer. Now she is focused entirely on the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016, but when she is away, she is always homesick for Jönköping.

“I travel a great deal and have done so for 15 years now. It’s very tedious in the long run. So when I can indeed be home, it doesn’t get any better,” Sofia tells Karin Marks, when they meet for a chat at the Jönköping Canoe Club on the shore of Lake Vättern.

You were born in Gothenburg but moved to Jönköping when you were 10. How did that come about? “Roots. My mom comes from here and my relatives are here. My parents live in Hisingsängen, and I live just a few kilometres from there. I like to be in those parts.”

Most people probably have seen you on TV, in connection with competitions. But who is the real Sofia as a person? “I’m quite impatient and persistent. And I like to feel a ‘flow’ in what I do. That can be in my training and when I compete, but also when I am home in the garden and pottering around. It can be when I am with my son. I like to just be in the moment, and that is something I practise a lot. Being an athlete is very much a matter of always thinking ahead and never being really content. But you can’t let it take over the rest of your life, because that would be an unhealthy way to live.”

What does health mean to you? “Balance and feeling a harmony in existence. A balance between training and recovery, but also a balance in life. In order for me to feel good mentally, I need other input than just the canoe.”

What do you prefer to do when you aren’t training? “Then ideally I am with my family. It’s not so much a matter of what we’re doing. We just are. I like to be out in nature, for example.”

Sofia på Vättern

Where in nature would that be? “Since we live in Bymarken rather close to Dalvik, the Hallbyleden trail is close by. I usually run or bike there or just take a walk. The Dunkehallaån river runs there, and then there’s a pond farthest up, behind the Klämmestorp place. It’s actually located very close to the city, but it is always peaceful.”

Can you paddle without training, just for the fun of it? “Maybe not during an intensive training period, but I can imagine that I will do more of that when I’ve stopped competing. I like to bring buddies along out there and show how fantastic Vättern can be. Many are amazed when they get a ways out on the water. They’ve never seen Jönköping from that direction before.”

What should a person bear in mind if they want to paddle on Vättern? “It’s a somewhat unpredictable lake, so it’s a good idea to stay close to land and pay attention to the weather. It might seem calm outside, but the wind can come up fast. You see darker bands on the water, and then the coast winds come. But it takes a while to learn how to read the water. If you’re a beginner, I think you should stay close to land and have a life jacket, a stable canoe and a paddle companion. My favourite route is along the shoreline up towards Trånghalla. It’s really beautiful.”

Sofia Paldanius

Sofia’s best 5 in Jönköping

Best place to hang out with friends:

All places are good in the company of good friends, of course, and it’s extremely pleasant in the kitchen of my friend Linda. Otherwise I prefer to have lunch at Tegel or Kafé Braheparken. In the evening ideally it would be food at Anna Greta’s or El Duderino.

Best place for a coffee in the sun:

On an outing! In the summer at Strömsberg Nature Reserve and in the winter with skis at Dumme Mosse.

Best excursion with children:

The Vissmålen 4H farm. Well-tended animals in beautiful natural surroundings. Peaceful and pleasant.

To do on a rainy day:

Go to Stadsbiblioteket. There are books there about everything for everyone and good films. For children there’s also a play corner.

The most underrated place:

Everything around Lake Vättern! I don’t think that we Jönköping residents truly realise what a unique gem this lake is.