Courtesy of Red Bull Media Service Team
Swedish MTB star is back on track after suffering a hellish year off the bike.
At such a young age, Emil Johansson has been put through the sort of rollercoaster you only usually see in Hollywood movies, the Swedish slopestyle star going from zero to hero and back again in a whirlwind 18 months.
The 20-year-old is now back where he belongs at the top of the sport after an emotional triumph at Red Bull Joyride, but that is only half the story as just last year the youngster thought his MTB career might cruelly be over. Discover all the twists and turns of his journey here:
Emil Johansson is born on June 20 in Trollhättan.
The Swede gets his first bike and begins practicing jumps with his friends soon after. “That is pretty much how it all started,” he said.
His competitive career launches in Sweden aged just 13. “He trained, trained and trained until he made it,” said his father Michael.
To pursue his dreams, Johansson moves five hours north of home to train in a warehouse in Falun aged 15. He spent almost every day there honing his style, while he continued his studies at the special ‘Sports Gymnasium’ – a high school that focuses on bike training and schoolwork. Two morning sessions and two afternoon sessions each week, including velodrome riding, gym work and specific dirt jump training, saw Johansson create his repertoire of tricks.
Johansson is invited to compete at Red Bull Joyride. Aged 17, he performs in front of his biggest crowd yet however is not fazed and finishes fourth. “I went from 0 to 100 pretty fast!”
The 2017 season was huge as his riding went to another level. He finished second at Red Bull District Ride and Red Bull Joyride plus second, third and fifth at Crankworx Les Gets, Rotorua and Innsbruck respectively to become both Crankworx and FMB world champion.
With global media and sponsors beating a path to his door, his world came crashing down soon after when he started to feel back pain and could not sit in a chair for 10 minutes. “I felt that something was up with my body,” he recalls.
Suffering from extreme back pain, bulging discs and lack of energy, Johansson travels to Munich to see a specialist and finds out the true extent of his back injury.
Still suffering sickness and fevers that left him bed-ridden, Johansson takes a second trip to the German city to visit doctors. “I was 18 and barely getting through the day. Everything was messed up.”
After a third trip to Munich, there is light at the end of the tunnel when he is diagnosed with the Epstein–Barr virus and Hashimoto’s disease – an autoimmune disease that damages the thyroid gland. With the right medication and his body realigned properly, Johansson begins to think about getting back on his bike.
With minimal training, and not performing on jumps that big for 12 months, a brave Johansson finishes fourth in a result which sees him stun the pundits and cry and laugh with relief. “If I dropped in, I felt like I had beaten the illness. All the pressure just went off me,” he said.
Johansson goes to Munich for the final time, and hears the good news that his back problems have significantly improved. He will never get rid of the EBV virus, but can manage the condition.
His 2019 season begins with a nasty practice crash at Crankworx Rotorua.
The Red Bull TV documentary ‘EMIL – Every Mystery I’ve Lived’ is released, going behind the scenes during his comeback. Watch HERE.
Johansson pushes winner Brett Rheeder close at Crankworx Innsbruck by finishing second.
With Rheeder out to clinch the Triple Crown of Slopestyle, Johansson unveils a flawless routine at Red Bull Joyride to edge out the Canadian for an emotional win. He said: “If you had told me two years ago, when stuff was really rough, that this day was going to happen, I wouldn’t have believed you.”