The Grand Prix challenges

Tommy, it’s your first time in Hinterzarten. What about the hill? Compared to the other hills in the Grand Prix it’s pretty small. Do you like it anyway?

T: Yeah, I just told Riku today that it’s my favourite small hill I have ever jumped. It flies like a big hill, but still is small so that we can do technical changes pretty easily, so I do like it here.

Riku, as a coach, what about the hill, what is special about it?

R: Well, the same things that Tommy told you… I have never jumped this hill, I was here like ten years ago when the hill was a lot different, the profile was different. According to Tommy, the feeling could be like jumping a big hill, you can jump very easily because of the speed and it’s small so that you can do these technical changes.

The time we’ve been here the weather’s been good althought it’s been raining. But well, I think it’s a good hill to make technical changes and learn how to fly also.

The FIS has been announcing a lot of new regulations for the winter. So, for example, the suits have to be even tighter than in the past years and they’re going to change the judging system, leaving out the points for flight and just judging the landing. Do you think this is a positive or a negative development?

C: With the changing of the judging that can be good and bad for different jumpers. I mean, it’s fine that they change that for everybody because it’s the same for everybody. And with the suits it’s the same for everybody also, which I don’t see why they need to keep changing it. It seems like over the last three years every year it gets tighter and thinner and it hasn’t really made any difference in distance or anything like that, so I don’t understand why they keep changing it. They need to find one point and then stay with it, because it‘s a pain for all the jumpers to come to every single competition and then you have to keep changing your suits. It’s just kind of frustrating to come to a competition and you even have to change suits that have been changed before.


About new judging system in ski jumping

And what about the new judging system?

T: I don’t really like it, because those who are effective and look good should be getting points for that and those who don’t have the right style should get points taken away. I’m not a big fan of it, but it’s not gonna hurt me.

C: Everybody has been trying to look good in the flight, that is something we’ve been training for and that doesn’t matter anymore…

T: But it’s also… I mean, the top guys are all gonna get really similar scores for flight. I guess it doesn’t matter that much in the end.

So do you agree that everything will be much closer because there won’t be any big differences between the points for the landing?

C: It’s a disadvantage for the best guys because with the way jumping was in the past few years, the winner has to go almost past the jumping distance on the hill and it‘s very hard to put telemarks in that far. So that makes it easier for the guys that are just going K to kinda gain points on those guys. But everybody is going right around K, there’s gonna be a lot of guys seperated by only one point.

R: I agree with what Clint said, that there’s a big advantage for the guys that are not jumping all well, maybe to the K-point, but for those guys that are jumping 10 metres over the K-point it’s not so easy to make a telemark landing. So there’s really a big difference for the jumpers who jump at the K-point and for those who jump 10 metres over it. There will be something to discuss about.

Do you think they’ll need to give more points for the distance?

T: Bonus points for every metre plus K, so that you can make up points for ludging on the landing.

So it‘s kinda frustrating for you that you’ve been training for a good style all the time and now it doesn’t matter any more.

R: It‘s kind of like killing the tradition, what it‘s used to be all about, it was a big part of it. But what can you do? What’s going on is, every year you get style points by name. It‘s just the name, they don’t judge it, even though they have those rules. It’s been going to that direction and that’s why they change it.

Do you prefer summer or winter competitions?

T: I think, that it’s much easier to jump in the summer, because the conditions are always the same, but it’s a winter sport, that’s what it’s always been, so… I prefer the winter although it’s cold.

C: I think there are better things about the winter and better things about the summer. It doesn’t make any difference to me.

R: As a coach, I think, you know what I prefer. It‘s a little bit warmer in summer… But I don’t mind winter, I like winter time.

What about the dicussion about using heated porcelaine tracks in winter as well?

C: I think, that’s definately good. Because sometimes in Central Europe and some parts of the US when you come to a competition the in-run is very slow and you can’t jumpd good from it. You have to concentrate more on standing up down the in-run than actually taking off. I think that is a really good thing.

Before your trip to Europe I read that if someone was doing really good in the COC competition in Oberstdorf/GER, he’d maybe be jumping in the Grand prix as well. Is that true?

R: Nobody did good enough. They had a chance.

What would have been good enough? Top 10?

R: Yes.

C: I jumped so bad in Oberstdorf, it was embarrasing… Tommy had a couple of good jumps but in competition… the wind was all over, it was raining, crappy… Nobody had good jumps in the competition, it just didn’t go good for everybody.

Switzerland’s Simon Ammann crashes during the final jump of the fourth stage of the four hills ski jumping tournament in Bischofshofen, Austria, on Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015. (AP Photo/Kerstin Joensson)

From worst to best

What is your first impression of Riku? What is it like to be working with him?

C: Over the years Kari has been a very good coach, but I don’t think he has very much fun with us, he’s very serious all the time. And Riku, I think, he has  kinda the same knowledge of ski jumping but he’s closer to the same age. But it‘s good to have Kari the same time. I think Riku’s very good, he has changed the whole attitude around the team.

T: For sure, I agree, it’s nothing but positive to be here. Like Clint said, it brings a lot more fun or youth to the team, even though I think Kari is probably the best coach in the world, with his knowledge of the sport, the equipment and stuff. So he’s a great coach, but he can’t relate to us as Riku can.

It seems to be a general development to have younger coaches. So for example in Suitzerland there’s Bernie Schödler, or in Finland they have Tommi Nikunen.

R: Yeah, we come from the same town and skied the same ski team. But what’s been happening here in the US Ski Team is, that Kari‘s still been the headcoach and this year is for him kinda shifting away and getting retired. In these two months I’ve been quite much like an assistant coach and when we go further the season, especially in winter time, Kari won’t be travelling with the guys as much as I will. This is still a season with Kari as the head.


There are a lot of ambitional and talented kids in the United States. I guess u know that I’m often in contact with athletes from Fox River Grove, Illinois, and all these kids have so great future goals and you guys are their big role models. As a member of the team, what advices would you give to these kids?

C: The thing is, we were there a few years ago… I mean, when I was little I was also looking up to the guys on US Team and I was like „Oh, those guys are awesome“ and it’s just crazy when you realize that you can do that. If you like ski jumping that much and you put that much of your life into it, then there’s no reason why you can’t be on the ski team and going to world cups one day. I guess, just don’t look too much up to these people, because sooner as you know you’ll be right with them.


Your families are living in Steamboat Springs, so you guys are kinda lucky as you’re training in Park City, which is not that far away. But, for example, Brian or Alan are pretty far away from their families, so what is it like? Have you ever been in a situation like „Oh my god, this is getting too hard, I’m gonna quit!“?

C: I mean, I really like being at home. But especially in the breaks between summer or winter, when you’re home for a couple of weeks… at first it’s fun but then you really wanna get started with training and travelling again. There’s times I wanna have a normal life, I guess, but I have plenty time after ski jumping for that kind of stuff. If we ever really feel like that, then it’s our 6-hour drive back home, and Alan has his plane so if we wanna take a weekend we just fly over and we can have a little break, so it’s not a nig deal. We’ve been to Park City so much, it‘s almost like home with all the families around there.

T: For me my really, really close friends are outside of ski jumping, I take any chance to go home to see my friends and to see my family. I definately like what I’m doing, I’ve always done this, I’m used it and I like it. Sometimes if I wanna go home I can talk to Alan and we fly home… we did that a couple of weeks ago and it was good, only for a night we went home. Pretty much, when I wanna get away from ski jumping, I can and I think that‘s important as well. Take breaks, get your mind out of this sport for a day.

Riku, did you leave your whole family in Finland?

R: Yeah sure. There were my parents, my brother, so there was not so much to leave…

What is so pecial about your sport, what keeps you training and climbing up the hill again and again?

T: I guess, it’s the fact that you know that you can get better and when you have one better jump you’re like „Oh“ and you keep climbing up until you’re jumping 220m or winning world cups. That’s all our goal and that‘s what we’ve been thinking about for the last ten years.

C: Exactly. When you’re little and you get this idea in your head that you wanna be the best in the world. You wanna keep going until you’re as good as you can be, that’s the sport, I guess. When you’re not jumping for a couple of weeks you really wanna get back and start doing it again.


Riku, what was your impression of the US Team and the whole world of US ski jumping, before you went to the USA?

R: It was a lot of different than I thought it would be. The culture, everything is different. But it’s also the system inside the ski team, inside ski jumping, that is so much different to what we have in Finland and, I think, most parts in Europe. When you’re an athlete on the US National Team then you have one headcoach. One world cup coach now as well, but there are your coaches, you don’t have anything else. In Finland everybody has his own personal coaches and they do maybe not even one week training with the National Team and then they go back home.


When you look back on the Olympics, what comes to your mind?

T: Damn it!

C: It was disappointing. I mean like a couple of months we were training on those hills before and we were doing good to be probably top15 in the Olympics and then the competition came along, nothing was going the right way. I was really disappointed.


T: Same for me. Actually having the best season of my life, making improvements and getting better and better, getting to the Olympics and then having a couple of good jumps in the training and then drop way, way, way down what I wanted to do. That was really hard… the experience you’ve been training for, you’ve been dreaming of and then watch yourself pretty much fail what you wanted to do. We weren’t expected to win, but… 2006 is a long time to go and we definately will have a better showing there.


On women in ski jumping

A lot of female athletes often mention that want women ski jumping as an Olympic sport in 2006. What about that?

T: For me that’s hard. One time I say „ yeah, women should definately have ski jumping in the Olympis“, but then I think there are just 25…

C: Yeah, there are just about 25 girls that can compete in these competitions, so they wouldn’t even have to do anything to make the Olympic Team. It’s kind of like in Skeleton thsi year, there was 11 competitors, so you have a 3 out 11 chance of getting a medal, which is totally different from what we do. But at the same time I think, further down the road if they get more women ski jumpers that’d be fine, that‘d be a good idea. But right now I think that there aren’t enough girls ski jumping to have a real competition.

T: Maybe in 2010 they should have that.


About the competition at the weekend: What do you think, who’ll be very strong this year?

C: I don’t know, haven’t seen anybody jumping this summer.

T: Yeah, without Hannawald, Schmitt and Ammann jumping, I think that Ahonen and Hautamaeki should be doing pretty well.

C: Perhaps even the juniors, like Happonen. All the finns are really good. And then I’d say Malysz will be very good. Alborn, Jones…

Dimitri Vassiliev was training this morning, after he wasn’t allowed to compete for about two years now. What do you think about that and doping in ski jumping in general? Is there any sense?

C: He was doing what definately helps in ski jumping… losing all your water before competition, that gives you a huge advantage over the rest. But I don’t think too many ski jumpers do any of these drugs because there’s not that many things that can help that much.

T: Only weight.


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