Golden Skate

Sweden's Berntsson Learns It's Different Near the Top

Sweden's Kristoffer Berntsson had some new figure skating experiences this year.

Sweden’s Kristoffer Berntsson had some new experiences this year — experiences that will help him at the big competitions next season. He finished sixth in the qualifying round and fifth in the short program at the 2004 European Championships, putting him in the penultimate group for the long. It was the first time Berntsson had skated in the last group for the long and in the next to the last group for the short.

“It was a totally different experience,” he said. “I couldn’t imagine how it was with the crowd and the noise. Even in Malmo, it wasn’t the same. There’s a big difference skating in the last groups, but the difference between the second to last group and the final group is huge. My goal was just to make the top ten at Europeans.” But the 21-year-old student from Gothenburg faltered in the long and ended up 13th, still his best finish in five tries.

Berntsson is just now realizing the potential he showed when he became the first Swede to land a triple Axel in competition four years ago. I’ve tried a quadruple toe loop, but haven’t landed one,” he noted. “So the triple Axel is my hardest jump.” His first triple was a triple salchow, landed when he was about 14.

The talented youngster first put on skates when he was five. “My dad was a hockey player so he put me in hockey school and skating school,” he remembered. “But I pretty quickly got tired of hockey and quit after a year. My skating school was an all-guy group so it was a lot of fun and I stayed in skating.” He has won the Swedish junior and senior men’s titles three times each, but hasn’t fared as well internationally. His best finish at Worlds was 21st in 2004 while he was 22nd in his only Junior Worlds appearance in 2000. Berntsson won his first international medal this season by taking the bronze at the Finlandia Trophy and narrowly missed the podium at both the Bofrost Cup and the Karl Schafer Memorial, finishing fourth each time.

Berntsson has always trained with Andrea Dohany in Sweden. He does two sessions each day, six days a week, for an hour and a half each. He spends another couple of hours a week off ice, running and doing conditioning exercises as well as some dance classes. Berntsson works with Dohany to select the music for each program, trying to change both programs every year. “I like all kinds of music,” he remarked. “But what I choose depends on what mood I’m in. Every year I try to find something no one else has and that I like. It’s fun to be original. I don’t like to do the same thing over and over.”

He used Like I Love You by Justin Timberlake, Session by Linkin Park, and Mona Lisa Overdrive for his 2003-2004 short program and The Time Machine for the long. Zerjon Abede choreographed the short, while Igor Bobrin choreographed the long. “I chose the music for the short late in June,” he stated. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Someone in my club started dancing to some music and I thought it was cool. So I tried some dancing music in practice and liked it. For the long, I like Justin Timberlake and that’s a popular song that everyone recognizes. I try to be diverse in my musical tastes. All my life I’ve been more of a rocker. I even tried to play the guitar when I was younger.”

Berntsson is in his third year of university studies in electrical engineering. “I like the technical stuff,” he said. “I always knew that so I wasn’t hard to choose a career. It’s interesting finding how everything works, including computers. I’m only going part-time so it will probably take me four or five years to finish.” He uses computers mainly to chat and email.

To relax, he watches television and goes out with friends. “I bring home a lot of stuffed animals from the competitions,” he said. “My ten-year-old sister loves them.” He also likes to travel. “It’s nice going all over the world,” he said. “I’ve been everywhere in Europe plus China, Japan, and so many other places. Vancouver was really nice. But I’ve never been to Australia. That would be interesting.”

Berntsson plans to skate at least until 2006. “I’ll continue as long as I possibly can,” he stated, “as long as I think it’s fun.”