FNCA: How content are you with the COC season 2015+16? Did you have any expectations and were they met or not?
Antti: The only expectation was to improve the performances of the team and also the results, of course. We already had some good results here and there last season and the season before but now I'm very happy about this season because we could make the total level a bit higher. We could make a big step forward with the whole team. I think we have many, many athletes who can fight for the Top10 positions at the moment and we also have more athletes who can get points. So it has been a very nice season. Of course it was also good that Ilkka and Eero were helping at the beginning of the season. With these good results we got one more quota for the World Cup and also one for COC. So I'm satisfied with the season because all the athletes have been improving mostly the cross-country part but also the jumping part lately. In the future, we have to focus a bit more on the jumping.
FNCA: What are your thoughts about the World Championships next year in Lahti?
Antti: Hmm... yeah, I think we have big expectations with Ilkka of course and I'm looking forward to see who from the team can already challenge him next season. And Lahti comes a little bit early for our project but it's nice to have the Championships in Finland and I hope we can get good results with some athletes and also as a team. So it's very exciting to see how many people will come to cheer us on and I think it's a good thing for all of us to have them in Lahti. And there are many guys fighting for a place on the team. The level is getting a little bit higher all the time.
FNCA: So a feeling that I got over the last two seasons is that there are some more talented young athletes coming up in Nordic Combined than with the specialist skijumpers. Do you agree with that?
Antti: Yeah, I think that's what we need – talented young guys who rise up and challenge the older athletes. This competition is good for everyone. And we also still have some really good guys coming about maybe 5 years from now. It's looking really good!
FNCA: Last but not least, can you tell us a few things about the NC ladies in Finland please?
Antti: Yeah, there are a few talented girls. They come from a bit difficult place with not so much snow. It's a flat area with not much of a cold season. They are good, but still jumping on the small hills. But I think in the near future we will have some girls move to Vuokatti to train at the sports academy. There they have better conditions and more possibilities. But we need to hurry a little bit with that now. There are some girls coming but we need to put more focus on them and have to work to get them on international competitions.
FNCA: Ok, that was really interesting. Thank you for your insight!
@ COC Klingenthal 15.12.2016
Eero Hirvonen has made a great development since the COC here in Klingenthal in 2015 - can you tell us a bit about his development?
Antti: I think one of the biggest reasons for the good skiing for him at the moment is because of the injury. He had this problem earlier also when he was doing different kinds of trainings for months I think. Double poling and stuff like that. He was doing these things and accidently he strengthened his weakness, the power in his upper body and the middle and he got lots of power for skiing because of this injury.
And he is also jumping very good.
Antti: Yeah, he is always jumping good. Okay, he had his bad time also. In summer it was catastrophal. Ilkka and Eero and mostly all of them somethimes jumped very bad in the summer. Of course when you work hard its difficult to jump good all the time and its not even needed. Its only needed to jump good in competition.
Somethimes they think to much.
Antti: Yeah. So for Eero its about this that he was doing this extra training because of the injury and then also about almost two years already without any medical problems. But the allergies and stuff. He had really bad allergies and he couldn't do anything. Every time he did some training he was almost not breathing. So we got all the medicals and stuff with the doctors and made it right and now he has beeing training without any problems the last two years. We have been knowing all the time he has this potential to be really good because of the skiing is really strong and also the jumpings. He has been one of the best runners in Finland when he was younger. Just when he is not having those problems he can do it better but now he has this problems again. But it's not so bad at the moment. I think he is coming back after the new year.
What are the team's goals for this winter in general and for WSC Lahti in particular?
Antti: I don’t know. I’m not the right person to answer. I don’t know if I’m going to be there even so maybe I watch it in TV or going there as a tourist.
With flag please ;)
Antti: I don’t know if I need it. Of course there are some expectations for the home games but also I think we have to set some realistic expectations. It's really dangerous to have too high expectations. It's normally causing some disappointments. If we are realistc - and I think we are realistic - the medal for Ilkka is realistic if he jumps well. If not I unterstand, it's a really high goal and everyone has to unterstand that is very far but it's possible.
It's something special because it is in own country and also the anniversary and everyone is expecting much so there is a lot of pressure.
Antti: I think Nordic Combined in Finland has been making very good progress lately and it's all the time in the media and people are following it more. It's good for the sponsors, it's good for the team, it's good for the athletes, it's good for everyone. But we have to understand that the team is not ready for the big success yet but like we have seen in the couple of team competitions they can reach 4th place.
Like in Lillehammer and also the team sprint in Falun 2015 with Ilkka and Jim was great.
Antti: Hannu is also coming, he's in a good shape. He was in the qualification competition with these guys and the juniors and he was winning with 1 ½ minutes. So he is ok, he is starting in Lahti now after the new year in World Cup. So it's interessting. I think it's possible for Ilkka and Eero without any more problems to make good positions.
Tell Ilkka not to punch walls anymore even if he is angry.
Antti: I think he learned this. He was really stopping and he was really also somehow shocked about himself how its possible that he acting like this. He was thinking very much. I think after that he had some different kind of point of view for the sport. That time it was too important for him, and after that he realized this.
He was disqualified in Oberwiesenthal and also in Oberstdorf. I can unterstand the disappointment, but not the reaction.
Antti: I think he is more relaxed now and he is not so pretty aggro about himself anymore as I know. We've been talking with him about this very much.
It seems like sometimes he's a little bit extreme about his ambition. He wasn’t happy with a good result. He always finds some bad thing in that place, that competition.
Antti: He likes to uproad things the negative way. But it's also a thing that is carrying him forward but he has to be really careful about this negativity because sometime it can work against you.
Was it very hard for him to be the team leader for such a long time and being the only person regularly competing in World Cup?
Antti: Yeah. It was really hard, all the pressure was on his shoulders. And now he is very happy when Eero is good. He doesn't mind if Eero is winning, it's good for everyone and it's also keeping some motivation for him. Also he can’t win in Finland anymore with bad jumps like in earlier competitions. It's very good to have another one. Also the beginning of the season has been very good for this two guys. But still very bad luck every weekend so it could be even much more. When everything is going right and not this bad luck, so without any falls and disqualifications and bad wind or anything it could be much better. But we have to be patient. It's difficult for everyone to be patient but I like to be this guy who is trying to push everyone to be patient. I think the head coach is not one of the most patient ones and also Ilkka and Eero are not so patient. They want everything now and I hope they can look forward now.
The Youth Cup competitions in Oberstdorf were quite successful again for the juniors - what are your thoughts?
Antti: Yeah I think it was ok. Our best one was ill, he was not competing at all. So that was the bad thing but the oher guys did just right.
The victory of Atte and 2nd place for Otto were very nice.
Antti: Yeah it was nice. And now we have a small team for Harrachov, also 4 guys. And then in Trondheim we will have a bigger team, 10 I think. I think also this scandinavian tour, there are 4 guys going and I just heard from Norway that they are planning the girls this time. So I think maybe 2 girls are going.
How are things going in the girls' department?
Antti: It's okay, we have girls. Lots of girls, but young girls. The oldest one is 2002 born, so she is 14 years old. Most of the girls are from the area where there's not much snow, no big hills and not many coaches. So I hope they can go somewhere else soon that they can train in normal conditions with professional coaches because they really need it. I was working with the girls two weeks ago. One week of training. I was trying to work a lot with them with the jumping things because that's difficult for the girls. They only have small hills and normally not any snow and therefore not a lot of jumps. I try to do some simple things for them. We have to wait some years. But there are a lot of girls. Some years ago there were 19 girls.
The oldest one is 14. We always have “Alpen Cup” competiton in summer for the girls, it's open for girls of every country. So maybe this will be an option for next year for her?
Antti: Yeah, I think so. We had this one girl in Oberstdorf. And no one of those older girls broke her shoulder falling in training, they have to operate it. I think the season is over for her. And she already had some motivation problems. I think it might be over for her. But I hope she is coming back. But I think almost all of those girls have a good backround from the gymnastics. They are really good in gymnastics and competing even in the national team gymnastics and they are really skillful girls but it's not easy to move this to the hills.
You need the mobility, so the things they are able to do like balancing acts are good because you can move it to the inrun position and stuff like that.
Antti: Yeah, I was working with those girls, specially with those inrun position this one week. And almost all of them can build the perfect inrun position but they can’t do it in jumping. They are not ready to do it in jumping.
Is there some strength missing from the muscles, for example for take off?
Antti: No. I think it's in the head. They are afraid.
Sometimes girls are a little bit easier scared by ski jumping than the boys.
Antti: Maybe. But they can do flick flacks and so on but when you put them in the jumping hill they are afraid. So it's still a little bit of a strange place for them and they need more advise and guiding and more help for the jumping. We try to kick them all the time to the bigger hill because we can’t put them into international competitions. We are forcing them to the big hill. But of course they are probably not enjoying this. But it's the only way at the moment. But now they already sometimes go to the bigger hill without forcing. That's good. It's a long way to go. But it's good that we have those girls.
Are there any plans to keep the Youth Cup in Vuokatti on the schedule for the next years?
Antti: Yeah it will be in the beginning of August. One week of training camp for the juniors and then the competitions at the weekend.