Kari and Gordy Sundberg

Kari and Gordy Sundberg prepare to compete in the Vasaloppet race.

It was settled. After watching last year’s Mora Vasaloppet, Gordy Sundberg and 12-year-old Kari decided they would give it a try this year. The two spent the summer in many conditioning activities: swimming, biking, and even rollerskating. This winter, they’ve been out on their skis, every week, getting ready for the 32-kilometer citizen’s race.

“We’re not trying to set any records,” said Pastor Sundberg, “we just want to finish the race.” Learning waxing has been their biggest problem, though they both credit Dale Woodrow of Onamia with a lot of good help and advice. Dale worked with them just before the race this past Sunday, too.

Skiing comes naturally to Pastor Sundberg; his father came to this country from the Hudiksvall region of Sweden when he was 22 years old. “Dad made skis in the barn,” said Sundberg, “and we always thought they were too narrow. We couldn’t figure out why he made them so skinny ... Now I know what he was doing.” He, of course, was not making downhill skis, but the narrower cross-country variety.

Gordy and his brothers all skied to school during the winter, and while stationed in northern Japan during the service, he skied even more. With the lack of snow in central Minnesota this winter, Gordy and Kari have kept in shape by jogging and walking.

The Sundbergs brought along their own cheerleaders too. The Vasaloppet runs through some of Gordy’s old hunting grounds while he was the pastor at Hillman Baptist, and many friends turned out along the course to cheer them on.

It’s a long distance from the Hudiksvall region of Sweden to the Isle Baptist Church, where Gordy serves as pastor, but in this case, the Swedes came to Minnesota. Several racers last Sunday were from the Sundbergs’ old home area across the ocean, and the reunion added to the excitement of the event.

But there’s no accounting for the weather, and those who skied this year’s Vasaloppet did so in 50 degrees. The going was tough, and Gordy’s bindings failed. The Sundbergs bowed out at the halfway point. Gordy and Kari will join those who return next year to ski the 20 miles. But you gotta have snow to ski, and next year will be different.

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