2004 World Junior Curling Champion. 2009 Universiade Champion. 5-time European Champion, including the the now three-time defending winner. 2-time World Champion. Olympic bronze medal winner. And now 2-time (back-to-back) Grand Slam of Curling Champion. The resume for Sweden's Niklas Edin is quite impressive. In fact, the world may just belong to the #SwedishViking and we are all lucky to live in it.
With accolades and championships like those listed above, one would think King Niklas would truly reign over the curling kingdom with an iron fist. However, sit down with him and have a conversation and you instantly forget the accomplishments and get caught up in the genuine, nice guy personality Niklas Edin truly has.
I have been a fan of Edin's since his world junior championship win in Trois-Rivieres, Quebec. As a fan, I knew this man would be a force to reckon with in the curling world for many, many years to come. Ok I realize many people made the same prediction and there is no actual physical proof I said this but still...just take my word for it #TwineTime fans. When I reached out to Niklas and asked him if he would be willing to join the #TwineTime family, honestly, I set my expectations low for a response. He is a World Champion. A European Champion. A two-time Olympian. Why would he want to sit down and talk to a "fan" blogger such as myself?
Well, this is why you forget about his impressive resume once you meet the man curling friends. He was quick to respond and said he was more than happy to do the interview. Timing was everything though. I did not want to interrupt his schedule and, knowing the team would have a week off in between The Masters in Okotoks and The Tour Challenge in Cranbrook, we set up the perfect time to do the interview. Of course, when arranging the interview, Team Edin had yet to win a grand slam event. Boom....Okotoks happened! It certainly made for an added value of excitement for the interview. Since our sit down, Team Edin went on to win The Tour Challenge grand slam and their third straight European Championship. The resume continues to grow my friends....
Let's go #BetweenTheSheets with Sweden's Niklas Edin:
TwineTime (TT): I appreciate you taking the time to sit down and talk in between slams. We spoke in Okotoks just after winning your first slam (The Masters) and you said it hadn't quite sunk in yet. It has been a few days, has it sunk in now? You are a grand slam champion.
TT: It's interesting to hear you say you thought you guys weren't peaking yet to win. I actually picked you to win The Masters and thought you were peaking at the perfect time. Do you feel any added pressure now competing as grand slam champions? Your calendar picks up a bit now, also qualifying for the Champions Cup at the end of the year. Do you feel the pressure of knowing more teams are now gunning for you?
NE: Yeah I think so. I think more of the top Canadian teams will see us as more of a threat. Before the win I think many saw us as a good team when we play at our best but they can still beat us if they play at their best. I think the situation has changed a bit with the four wins, they cannot really deny us anymore. If we play at our peak I think we can play with all of the teams. I still think we haven't reached our peak yet, we have been efficient this season. We have won 4 out of 7 events but we have not played as well as we want to play yet. Hopefully we can bring that to Cranbrook and have some interesting games.
TT: That's dangerous to hear for other teams but exciting to hear for Team Edin fans. Now we also had the coolest moment in Okotoks when the superfan got to meet you after the championship win. Thank you for helping make that happen and I think it is something a lot of people do not get to see at events. It makes the sport a bit more unique when an athlete like yourself takes time out of a celebration to give back to a fan. What does that mean for you and your team when you see the fans and see them get really excited about seeing you?
NE: Yeah that is something we don't see in Sweden really or even in Europe. Sometimes maybe in Switzerland or Scotland where curling is more traditional with a few more players and curling is shown on TV a bit more there. When we come to Canada we are not like "rock stars" but closer to that status at least. *laughing* It's fun to have people cheer for you and they know what you are doing. It's fun when they can go back 10 years and still remember results we had that I almost forget myself. It's pretty cool and it takes you back to good memories. It makes you go harder the next games too. I really appreciate those comments and people who want to take pictures, that is something we will always agree to.
TT: The moment certainly blew up on social media and had many people talking about it. Speaking of memories, I remember your first World Junior Championship in 2004, that is when I can remember becoming a fan of yours. I think your fans in Canada are still following and supporting everything you do. Going into this season the team went through a little change adding Rasmus Wrana at second. Last season the team also decided to stay in Ottawa for an extended period of time for events rather than travel back and forth. What made for the decision change on the season and how did the team cope with the line up change?
NE: Obviously it was really hard with the situation around Kristian (Lindstrom). He had a really bad injury for sweeping. He could still play but with the sweeping like last year when you needed pressure to create those lines and make the rock follow. When he had a really bad shoulder and couldn't really work out either, it was a really tricky situation. He couldn't get the effect he wanted on brushing and that was frustrating for him. At the same time we didn't get the affect we wanted to either with brushing so it was frustrating for the whole team. We didn't make as many great shots as we had hoped for. Although we got the great brushes at the end of the year we couldn't get as much affect as many of the other teams. After the season we thought he would get the surgery and we would be good to go for the next year. But it turned out to be more serious and he basically had to rebuild his whole shoulder. He had 6 to 8 months of recovery and then starting below scratch for building. We didn't really see an option to continue playing with Kristian even though he is a super talented player. It is just really hard to get back to that same level in time for the Olympics. It is only a year and a half away and you want to be in your best form for half a year at least before the Olympics so you can adjust the strategy and know exactly how the players throw. You don't want to reach a peak the week before the Olympics and have to adjust all the little details you have been watching for the past three and a half years. It was just a tricky situation. It kind of seems harsh to the rest of the players in Sweden but the way we saw it is we had only one really good option and that was Rasmus. He has been the super talented junior for the past five years and a strong guy too. We need someone strong to be able to create those lines. Looking for a new player that was kind of the only option. When he got the question he said yes right away. It's a good situation even though it was tricky to leave Kristian behind, so to speak, but he felt we made the right decision too. I'm glad to see him back on the ice now. He reached the final at the mixed (World Mixed Curling Championships) so that's fun for him and he is still messaging us after all our events. He is still involved in the game and I'm sure he will be back at the top level.
TT: Yeah I saw that result. It was great to see.
NE: Yeah. And now looking forward I think we still need some time with Rasmus. He has been a skip his entire life so we still have some work to do on sweeping and also for sweeping as hard as he can for a long game and a long tournament while still being on his game for the next game and the next event. To still throw his rock at 100% even after brushing a few rocks in a row. We have some time still for him to reach his best level at second but he is already getting close. That is good to see! We are kind of looking forward to when all four are peaking at the right time, what can we do?!
TT: Yeah for sure. How do you guys plan out your schedule to make sure you are reaching your peak at the best time? Your schedule is pretty intense and quite busy.
TT: Excellent. I think this is great to know for curling fans too. How teams plan out those four years and the preparation involved is great to know and we appreciate you sharing. This is also the Year of 3 for you perhaps. You are going for your third straight European Curling Championship and your third world championship potentially. Interesting enough you seem to win your world championships in odd number years so 2017 should be your year. Do you feel added pressure heading into those bigger events knowing, more often than not, you are favoured heading into the event?
NE: Yeah I think we actually feel less pressure now than we did a few years ago because we knew we had the ability but didn't quite have the results yet. It's kind of nice to get the monkey of the back. The first Euro's we played as a new team after the Olympics we won and went 11-0. That result kind of set a new standard for this team where not only are we favourites but knowing if we play at our best we will win, especially at Europeans. Last year we struggled a bit and weren't playing at our best heading into the playoff. But at the playoff we simply played better than the other team. It gives us a confidence boost going into this year's event. We are back in the situation where we have to win a medal. Well we always have to win a medal to keep our funding but to secure our Olympic spot we have to win Europeans to make sure we qualify for the Olympic games. If we don't do that we have to go super hard for the world's. The biggest pressure is at the Europeans because we are expected to win and we expect ourselves to win. It won't be easy though. We know there are 3 or 4 really rough teams and we really have to play well to win. At the same time this is really our chance and our opportunity to knock down an Olympic spot. I think most of the pressure comes from ourselves because we expect to win. Of course if the other teams play at their best it will be tricky.
TT: Exactly but good pressure can produce great games and great results. Now you spoke a bit of the broom issue from last year, if I could put you in charge of curling for one day and you could make one change to really help #growthesport what would be your one change?
NE: *laughing* Oh that's a really tricky question. If you would have asked me last year I would have said the materials on the ice affecting the rock too much. In my point of view it has been affecting the ice for way longer than just last year. Seeing at the summit exactly what we could do with the heads we have been using for the past 4, 5, or 6 years, even before the Olympics back in 2010. With those heads you could really pound it, almost snow plowing the rock, you could make it fall almost with anything. For me that was by far the biggest issue. Having that solved I am going to sit back and relax now. All the other issues I might have with details in our sport are just minor problems in comparison. I am looking forward to just relaxing now. If there is a small change I would want to see happening, I am not going to care as much. The game is 97% to where we want it to be.
TT: Yeah true enough. I think that is also want many people were talking about last season. If we could all get through it, moving forward, the sport would be better in the long run. It may be one rough year but it builds towards the greater good now.
NE: Yeah exactly!
TT: Now with your success, Anna Hasselborg's recent success, Margaretha Sigfridsson's success....Sweden certainly has seen outstanding success in the sport. From a Swedish perspective what can we do to continue to see growing success back home? You had great comments about Rasmus and his growth. How do we keep the junior curlers in Sweden still going hard?
TT: That has really been a main focus of this blog and the #growthesport mentality of how to increase those junior numbers around the world and continue moving the sport forward. In speaking about you, your resume is pretty impressive. Many great shots to win tournaments and championships. What is your one shot you always remember?
NE: *laughing* Well it wasn't a bad one against Jacobs last weekend (Masters final).
TT: *laughing* Yeah that was a pretty amazing shot.
TT: The worse position in sports *laughing*
NE: *laughing* Yeah exactly. That would have been hard to come back from I think. That was probably the most important shot. But I would say the most fancy was the one against Jacobs.
TT: Yeah that was a very cool moment. I was actually standing right behind the sheet and it was amazing to see. Now on the flip side of course with the good comes the bad. There are always some bad shots you really wish you could do over. Is there any specific one at the very top of the list that you just wish you could have one more shot at?
NE: Yeah, a couple probably. But the toughest one is the runback against Murdoch in the (2014) Olympic semi-final. The toughest part about that is I threw it exactly like I wanted to. If it curls a millimeter more we probably win that game. The tough thing there is I threw it the way I wanted to so if I got to throw it again I would do the exact same thing and we would have lost by a millimeter once more. So I almost don't want to throw it again. A more tricky one that I really want to throw again was in my first Olympics (2010) when we played against (Switzerland's) Ralph Stockli in the bronze medal game. We had a draw to really set up a situation to win the game. We were short on time and I had thrown the same draw earlier. I just slid out of the hack not thinking that if you throw the same shot it is going to be a bit keener the next time. That was just a lack of experience. If I got to throw that again I would slid out a bit softer and probably should have made that shot. But I threw it and slid out heavy. If I could that would be the one I would want to re-throw.
TT: Oh for sure. Is it hard to get over those shots when that happens? Especially in that example, at the Olympic Games where all eyes are on you all the time. How do you get over those mentally?
NE: Yeah I don't think I have *laughing*
TT: *laughing* Fair enough.
NE: Missing that draw, the first super important shot of my career, I really felt I did bad and I could have done it better with more experience and coming in a couple of years later. It was early on in my career and we never really saw ourselves as having a chance at winning a medal. We expected to reach Top 6 and be super happy. Getting to that stage, we were not ready I think. But missing that has made me make a lot more of those draws at the next few events, including Europeans and World. I think I made some of those harder draws and shots because I had that miss at the Olympics. The tricky thing is that shot was so important. I could win four more world titles and it still would not mean as much as winning gold at the Olympics. It came with a price. I made a lot of those draws later but that one still hurts. Missing another shot, a runback which is my signature shot. An out turn runback with peel on centre line, I rarely miss those. But I missed it at the wrong time *laughing* At the time I didn't even know how to throw it better. That was hard. I thought about that shot for 3 months every day all day. It was hard to get away from. If I get that shot again, I would have to take more time and use all my experience I have gained and just make it.
TT: Lessons learned for the future though as well I suppose.
NE: Yup for sure.
TT: Now I have some rapid fire questions for you to let fans in on getting to know you a bit better. Do you have a nickname?
NE: I guess when I did military service it was Edin because you always go by last time. I haven't really had any other nicknames until I started playing in Canada and here everyone calls me Nik so I guess Nik would be my nickname.
TT: Your favourite sport other than curling?
NE: Oh I have a ton of them. I have done a ton of sports. I started with soccer, that was my favourite sport to play. I started tennis and that is my favourite sport to play right now. My favourite sport to watch is probably snooker/pool. There is so much strategy involved which is good for our sport too.
TT: Yeah and great angles involved. Do you have a favourite tennis player?
TT: Have you been to a (tennis) grand slam?
NE: Nope. I was really close to going to Wimbledon once but the tickets were like $3,000 for the final and you didn't really know who you would be getting. And, at that time, Serena Williams was the huge overwhelming favourite so you would get a 6-2, 6-1 final. Paying $3,000 to watch that just didn't seem worth it. Hopefully I can go one day but probably not until after my career.
TT: I am actually off to Australia in January for the Australian Open. I am going to the opening three days.
NE: Oh cool. Now I am jealous *laughing*
TT: *laughing* I love tennis as well, one of the other sports I try to write the most about. I'll send you pictures. Who is your biggest curling rival?
NE: Hmmmm I'm not sure. Right now it is probably (Norway's Thomas) Ulsrud.
TT: I think that is who most people would suspect as well.
NE: Yeah we have probably played at least 150 competitive games against them now and they probably have our number at the tour level and we have their number at the European and World Championship level. It is kind of a mental advantage for us right now. But at the same time when we play them on tour they beat us. That is probably our biggest rival. In Canada I think (Mike) McEwen and Jacobs have been super hard to beat the last couple of years and I think they will keep being our main competition for the next few years.
TT: And all three will be in Cranbook with you so you may have to go through them all again.
TT: Do you have a curling idol?
NE: We watched a lot of Brier tapes actually. A lot of people would expect me to answer Peja (Lindholm) but I never really got the chance to watch them play a lot. We started playing against Peja's team when we were maybe 15 or 16. But before that we were watching a lot of Brier tapes so I would say the top teams in Canada from back in the day, the early 90's. Wayne Middaugh, Jeff Stoughton, Kerry Burtnyk, Kevin Martin obviously, Rnady Ferbey...basically those top teams in Canada. They were all big idols for me and Nils Carlsen, who was my roommate back at the Curling Academy. He was skipping and I was playing third at the end of juniors. We watched every curling game there was to find in Sweden. We knew more about them than the Canadian teams did themselves *laughing* We watched every detail. How they played the game with strategy, timing, the timing of a take out, draws from hog line to hog line. We knew every detail about every Canadian skip at that time. Guy Hemmings as well. He looked a bit odd.
TT: *laughing* It was that awesome hair.
NE: *laughing* No, no I meant technically. He looked odd on the ice playing. He was shaking on his slide and he was making every draw. He had those few years when he was making everything and did really well at the Brier when nobody expected him to win. I think mentally he was also a big favourite for me. I've tried to adapt and learn, taking the best from all of them and make me better. What kind of take out player I want to be. What kind of draw player I want to be. What kind of skip I want to be. Bring all the best details from all of them.
TT: For sure, that's a great answer too. Now you have also had some great success in mixed curling. If you could form the perfect team, picking any players from anywhere in the world, who would be your four? And would you put yourself on the team?
NE: Oh that's a tricky situation. I probably wouldn't put myself on the team *laughing*
TT: *laughing* Wow, you are the first person to say you would not put yourself on the team. Everyone always says they would put themselves on the team.
NE: *laughing* Yeah I love to play mixed but I am not the best sweeper and have had some injuries so I would pick some other players. Johnny Mo (John Morris) seems like a really great player and seems pumped to win those events. He would be a great skip. Marc Kennedy of course being the most consistent thrower in the game would be the best second as a great sweeper and judge of the rock. Those would be my top two men's. On the women's side it's really hard. I think Rachel Homan has all the shots in her repitoire and she has done really well in mixed doubles with Johnny Mo. They are a good pair. To pick a lead, Lisa Weagle making all the good tick shots wouldn't be a bad option. She knows Rachel too. I think I will stick with that. That would be a very hard team to beat.
TT: Yup, I agree. That would be a very hard team to beat! All Canadians too?
NE: Yeah in Canada I think you play a lot more mixed, especially mixed doubles. I rarely play a game of mixed, other than the Continental Cup. I think that is why we always get smashed at the Continental Cup. We have no chance of winning the mixed or the mixed doubles. Players from Canada know the game, know the format and play better together. It would be a hard team to beat. If we picked the best team from Europe I don't think we would stand a chance.
TT: What about mixed doubles in the Olympics? Yay or nay? Is that something you would potentially ever look at wanting to play?
NE: That was a big no for me. I don't think it has the same status. It has not enough good players. I think it was a bit of rush decision. It was maybe the only option we had to get another discipline into the Olympics but I don't think it was the best one, I still don't. It has started growing on me a bit though. The last couple of years, especially bringing those events to the slams, is making it a bit better. I still don't expect the best players to play because the best players will still be playing with their teams. I think if it stays at the top level and at the Olympic level, maybe by the next Olympics we will see some great games. But I think right now it is not as good as the other sports to be honest. It is not the best players playing in the format and we don't have enough experience to really make it good enough for the Olympic Games I think. It is growing though. If it continues to grow maybe the best players will start looking into it more and maybe I will start looking into it. But you cannot combine them, at least for us you cannot. We have to play a number of big events in mixed doubles only. If that changes, sure it would be fun, but I don't think it would be possible to do both. For now I am going to stick to the team event.
TT: Well the team events seem to be working really well for you anyways *laughing*
NE: *laughing* So far yeah...
TT: *laughing* So far. Of the 7 dwarfs, which one would you be?
NE: Oh the goofy one for sure. The one with big ears and making a fool out of himself all the time.
TT: *laughing* You would be Dopey?
NE: *laughing* Yeah, that might be his name in English. I actually probably relate to all of them. I can be grumpy and serious too. I can be funny too. Playing curling I am a really serious guy. I don't want to make any mistakes. Off the ice, I am more of a goof.
TT: Nice. And what about the three members of your team? Do any of them fit the mold of any specific dwarf?
NE: Hmmm I don't really know all the dwarfs, I would have to really think about that one. They are not as goofy as me that's for sure. On the ice we are really serious so I don't really know.
TT: Is nobody on your team Sleepy? Everybody seems to have a Sleepy on their team.
NE: Oh the new guy (Rasmus Wrana) for sure! *laughing* The new one for sure is the sleepy one. He needs like 10 hours a night. Usually I'm awake for a couple of hours before he even gets up.
TT: *laughing* Nice! I spoke with Anna (Hasselborg) in Okotoks and tried really hard to get some dirt on you but you must have paid her off nicely or she is really nice because she had nothing on you. She had many positive things to say about you. But I was told to ask about you and your toiletries products. You have them perfectly lined up I hear. You have a lot? They have a specific way to be lined up and set up?
NE: *laughing* They do have to be set up in a specific line. You should see my towels back home. They are all folded the same way. If one of them is even an inch off I will be the first to correct that. I am a little bit of a freak that way. I see everything in a straight line I think. It is reflective in my curling I think too. I always place the rocks in the right position behind the hack once out of play. It is one side of my sports, everything is in a straight line and done correctly.
TT: *laughing* Ah nice, fair enough. Do you think there is some superstition there as well?
NE: Not really. I don't have to do it but it feels better when I do it. I feel more relaxed and more prepared. Sometimes at less important events I don't do it. It's not something I have to do but something I want to do.
TT: You have some amazing sponsors for your team. If you could go to any company in the world right now and ask them to be a sponsor and they would say yes, who would it be?
NE: *laughing* Oh that is a tough one. Maybe a car company. We need a car! Maybe Ferrari?
TT: *laughing* Oh nice choice. That would be a great sponsor!
NE: *laughing* Yeah Ferrari, I would like that.
TT: *laughing* I would too. Ferrari sponsoring a Swedish curling team.
NE: *laughing* Yeah!
TT: Now I was walking around in Okotoks talking with fans about you, trying to prepare for this interview. The ladies obviously love you.
NE: *laughing* That's good to hear!
TT: *laughing* Yes for sure. Including the 82 year old ladies. Everyone loved you! But even the guys thought you would be a great person to sit down and have a beer with after a game. You seem to be universally liked by both women and men, which is not easy to do for an athlete. Like you mentioned earlier, you do have a sort of celebrity rock star / calendar model image going on. Do you like that?
NE: Yeah of course! When I play curling I am dead serious. But off the ice I like to socialize with people and have a beer. I like to learn about people and where they come from and what they do. People who curl or even just watch curling, it's basically like a big family. When we are competing, curling is not a big sport. We see the same guys over and over again and we become good friends with them. The best part is meeting new junior players who come up to you and say they have been watching you and want to have a photo with you. That is always great to see because that is where I was when I was a junior. I had a lot of sports idols. When I met Peter Forsberg the first time I was on cloud nine for three weeks. My mom couldn't get me to do anything other than talk about Peter Forsberg. I love meeting new junior players, especially the one's who really love the game and want to be around the game, that speaks close to my heart.
TT: I think that speaks to your character as well because fans pick up on it right away for your passion of the game on and off the ice. I couldn't find one person who had anything bad to say about you.
NE: *laughing* They probably didn't meet me on my bad days
TT: *laughing* Fair enough!
NE: *laughing* They didn't meet Grumpy!
TT: *laughing* Nope they never met the Grumpy side I guess. My last interview was with Binia Feltscher. For her #AskACurler question for you was, "Where would you be today and what would be doing if you had no sports career?"
NE: Oh shoot I was going to say another sport. *laughing*
TT: *laughing* Yeah she snuck that one in there
NE: Hmmm except for sports....as a kid my uncle built houses. I was doing a lot of that too. I was building tree houses. My dad was a farmer so I had a super big yard to play in and build stuff and do sports. But then as I got older I got really into math and physics. I didn't really do a lot of it because it was always sports as number 1. But I thought about it and when my career really started I looked back and thought I kind of wanted to have a couple of years to study that and see if I could do anything good. Math or physics would be something I would like to work with. It comes natural. Something along those lines I would like to do.
TT: That's awesome. Now my last question is giving you the #AskACurler power. My next interview is going to be with Team Meachem vice Catlin Schneider. If you could ask him anything, what would be your one random question?
NE: *laughing* Ohhh...hmmmm that is tricky.
TT: *laughing* Yeah, usually this is the hardest question for people. Getting to turn the tables and ask a question to another curler.
NE: Hmmm, yeah. Umm...probably what would he want to see out of himself and his team out of the next three years to really get that breakout, to really get to that next stage and become a slam team. To really go hard for it and compete at the level they want to play at. They are really close but to take that next step, what would he want to see out of himself and his team?
TT: That's an excellent question. That is everything I have. Thank you Niklas for sitting down and talking to me.
NE: No problem. Thank you and great questions.
The guy even ends with a compliment for me....how cool is that? Humble. Down to Earth. Genuine. We have to expand the characteristics for Niklas Edin to not only include curling champion and Olympian.
Edin and his #SwedishViking team are in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario getting ready to continue the Power of 3 theme for their season. They completed the trifecta in Scotland winning a third straight European Championship. Can the theme continue at The National when Team Edin tries to win their third straight Grand Slam of Curling title? Tune in to Sportsnet all week, and I would guess well into the weekend perhaps, to watch Team Edin and the rest of the men's and women's teams fight it to claim the purple rings stop on the grand slam circuit.
Also, stay tuned to the #TwineTime blog for the preview and predictions blog post for The National.