“I’d like us athletes to be more involved in rule and equipment changes”

A finally recovered Eero Hirvonen talked to Fondo Italia about his career, Olympic preparation and the relationship to his team mate Ilkka Herola.  
After being held back by an injury, the 25 year-old also shared his new discovered physical strength and his biggest dream for the future. 

Last season you achieved three Top Ten results in the World Cup and no medals at the FIS Nordic Ski World Championships in Oberstdorf. What went wrong?    
I had quite a good start into the season. Even if my jumps weren’t ideal, I performed better than in the last two years, when I still had physical problems. 
Unfortunately, I injured the tendon of my wrist before the World Championships in Oberstdorf and it was difficult to train the Cross-Country part thenceforth, while my jumping still wasn’t good enough. Therefore, the start of the season was okay, but I’m not happy with how it went from there. I was hoping for more, because I was in really good shape during summer but nothing went as planned after January. 

How is your physical situation at the moment, starting your preparation with the Olympic Winter Games at the horizon?
I have no issues at all anymore. I can train properly and do every exercise I want. Last summer went good already, after my knee surgery, but now I am fully recovered and the problems are solved. 

Looking at next seasons main goal: What do you know about the new hill and tracks in Zhangjiakou/China already? Did you get any feedback from your team?
I have only received some pictures of the new venues in Beijing from our team. 
But I think no one really knows what the hills will be like and therefore, it doesn’t bother me at the moment. I know that the venue has a high altitude and this will affect everyone. We are working on that, having altitude camps during the summer in Central Europe but of course, China will be different in the end. Normally, we don’t compete in conditions like that during the World Cup season.

What is your biggest strength as a Nordic Combined athlete?
Recently I have been a good skier and I defend myself well in the final sprint. I believe those are my biggest strengths currently. Before my injuries I was also a good ski jumper, having a lot of fun jumping, but due to those injuries I enjoy it a little less now. 

Which innovations brought the new jumping coach Falko Krismayr to you personally and the Finnish Team in general? 
Falko is very good at motivating athletes and giving positive energy, therefore its very nice to work with him. He has a lot of experience in Nordic Combined, brings new ideas and always has the right solution or advice when technical or equipment-related questions come up. He’s been a huge help since arriving last season. But my personal coach is still Petter Kukkonen who I’ve known and trained with for several years now.

Tell us about the chemistry with your team mate Ilkka Herola. 
We’ve been part of Finlands Nordic Combined team for so long now, starting as juniors almost ten years ago, that it’s easy to get along well. We are also friends outside of the sport, going fishing and hunting or doing holidays together.

Last season, some disagreements between Petter Kukkonen and FIS accured regarding the Equipment control. From this year on, Finnish Mika Jukkara will be in charge of this matter in Ski Jumping. Have you met him and what is your opinion about this issue in general?
I don’t know Mika well, that’s why I can’t give an opinion about his new position or whether his work will have an impact on Nordic Combined. In general, we always try to have the best equipment, while respecting the rules. There is a big competition regarding the suits between several nations, but I don’t know very much about that subject. 
As an athlete it is my job to compete at my best level, while our technicians try to prepare the best equipment possible.

What kind of changes would you like to see in Nordic Combined in the future?
I would like us athletes to be more involved in the decision-making processes for rules and equipment. It is not easy for us to adapt every year, therefore I would like to have more stability. Personally, I would also like to have more kilometers in the Cross-Country races, like in the past, when there was a 7.5 km sprint and a 15 km Gundersen. 
Furthermore, in some venues the break between Ski Jumping and Cross-Country is quite it long and a bit boring for us.

Where do you see yourself career-wise in ten years? What would you like to achieve? 
Most important for me is that I’ll be able to enjoy Ski Jumping and Cross-Country skiing without further injuries in the future. Through this, I would be able to constantly work on my results in the next few years. 
I love Nordic Combined and it’s a fun sport for me to practice. I know that with having pleasure in training day after day, I can improve my jumps and pace to get good results. Of course, for next season the Olympics are my goal.

Interview: Fondo Italia / Paolo Romano 
Original article: Fondo Italia – Interview Eero Hirvonen


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