ALPINE YOUNG GUNS: Aleksander Aamodt Kilde
By Michael Mastarciyan
I once wore a Wayne Gretzky #99 hockey jersey during an ice hockey game, and the horrible ridicule and abuse I took for not being as good as The Great One made me bury the jersey so deep in my closet, it hasn’t seen the light of day since Ronald Reagan was still President of the United States.
I can’t even imagine what it would be like to be a young, up-and-coming Norwegian alpine ski racer with the name Aamodt on a FIS license – the name made legend by Norway’s alpine Great One, Kjetil Andre Aamodt. Oh wait, I CAN imagine what that would be like, because I DO KNOW a young Norwegian alpine racer named Aamodt.
The Aamodt I’m talking about is Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, the 21-year-old ski racing phenom who’s being touted by ski pundits as Norway’s next great all-rounder.
Winner of the overall Europa Cup points title, the EC Super- G title, five EC podiums (three of them victories in Super-G), a Junior World Championships Giant Slalom gold, and a Super-G second place at Norwegian Nationals (just behind Aksel Lund Svindal) Aamodt Kilde made it more than clear last season, that the water in Norway’s ski racing talent pool is still, both very fresh, and very deep.
But it’s not just the pundits who have taken notice Norway’s alpine “Next One” – even more impressive, is the praise he’s getting from Norway’s current Great One – Viking Thunder himself, Aksel Lund Svindal.
“Aleks is a great skier. He’s fast, stable and powerful. What impresses me most is his physique. He is the best trained skier I have ever seen come up to the World Cup level,” Lund Svindal told me when I quizzed him about the newest Aamodt on Norway’s alpine roster.
“He definitely has the possibility to win races, and I also think he has the skills to be a contender in the overall in the future. But he’s young, and I’m not going to put that kind of pressure on him in his first winter on the World Cup.”
Okay, so no pressure from Aksel, but does Norway’s reigning alpine king have any advice for the young man some members of the world ski media have called the “Crown Prince” of Norwegian skiing?
“Keep working as hard as you are right now! That’s the only advice he needs,” says Lund Svindal.
I interviewed Mr. Aamodt Kilde recently and asked him what it’s like to race with a really, really, really famous ski name and a few other things related to his life on and off snow…
MM: Aleksander, is Aamodt a family name (like Lund is Aksel's mum's family name) or is it a given name because your Mum and Dad were fans of Kjetil Andre?
AAK: Aamodt is my mom’s family name, so it’s the same as Lund in Aksel’s name.
MM: Are you related to Kjetil Andre Aamodt?
AAK: No I’m not.
MM: What do you think of Kjetil Andre Aamodt? Were you a big fan of his growing up?
AAK: I was and still am a big fan of Kjetil Andre Aamodt. I’m maybe a little young to remember his first good results, but I do remember many of them, and I know a lot about him and his career.
MM: Any kind of added pressure given Aamodt is part of your name?
AAK: No, having the same name doesn’t make me feel any pressure, or anything like that. I would say it’s pretty cool to have the same name as such a big skier as he was.
MM: Did you have a ski idol growing up?
AAK: Kjetil Andre Aamodt was probably my biggest idol when I was younger, but as I got older, it quickly became Aksel, and I have to say he still is my idol.
MM: What do you friends call you? Any nicknames you want to share?
AAK: Most of my friends call me Kilde, Alek, Aleks or Aleksander.
MM: What was it like the first time you raced against your idol Aksel? Were you nervous at all?
AAK: The first time I raced against Aksel was at nationals a few years ago, I wasn’t that nervous in the beginning because I was still young and more excited than anything. But of course it’s special to ski with your biggest idol.
MM: You finished 11-hundreths behind Aksel for 2nd place in Super-G at Norwegian Nationals a few months ago. Was did that feel like?
AAK: It was really encouraging for me to see that I could actually compete with Aksel. It really gave me a lot of motivation to work hard.
MM: You are a multi-discipline skier. Can you see yourself as an all-rounder in the mold of KAA or Aksel on the World Cup tour some day?
AAK: Yes that’s definitely my goal, and I do believe that one day I can reach that goal.
MM: Where will you do most of your racing this coming season?
AAK: In the beginning I will start in the World Cup tour in Soelden, and see where it takes me from there.
MM: You’ve had lots of success in all the different events…do you have a favourite one?
AAK: Since I was young GS has always been my favourite, as I grew up and had success in Super-G also I really began to enjoy that too.
MM: You won the overall Europa Cup points title last season. Was the overall your goal when the season began?
AAK: My goal before last season was to compete well in the Europa Cup, and to be consistently top-30. When I started the season I was reaching this goal, but after Christmas I surprised myself by winning my first Europa Cup race, then from there my expectations changed and my goals became higher.
MM: Winning the overall means racing a lot. Were you exhausted when the season came to an end?
AAK: I never really realized how exhausting it was throughout the whole season, cause I was so focused about reaching my goal. When it came to an end, it all hit me, and I was exhausted but very excited about how everything turned out.
MM: Aksel says you’re one of the most physically fit and best trained racers he’s ever seen. How do you feel when you hear that?
AAK: Hearing that from my biggest idol is really crazy because he knows exactly what it takes to be the best in the world.
MM: Is there a secret to being really fit? Working out is obviously important, but so is diet. Aksel once told me eating a lot of salad is one of his techniques. Do you have any tips you want to share with young racers?
AAK: Besides training really hard my advice is to always be cautious about what you eat and realize that everything can have an effect on your performance. Always make sure that you eat enough.
MM: What’s the most important thing you learned last season?
AAK: The most important thing that I learned last season was that every detail matters, and you have to be focused on doing the right thing from the minute you wake up and throughout the day.
MM: You won gold in Giant Slalom at Junior Worlds in Quebec. What was that experience like?
AAK: Winning a gold medal in a World Championship is something that you’ll never forget. Winning is always my ultimate goal, but winning a race this big was definitely more rewarding than usual.
MM: Canadians and Norwegians have a very close-knit relationship on the World Cup tour. Did you make any Canadian friends while you were in Canada?
AAK: Yes I have a couple Canadian friends, but I knew them before going to Canada.
MM: Anyone introduce you to one of Quebec’s most tasty dishes “Poutine” while you were in La Belle Province?
AAK: Eeehm no. But I would like to try.
MM: What do you think your biggest strength is a skier?
AAK: Probably my technique and physical fitness.
MM: Do you have anything you think you need to improve on as a skier?
AAK: Of course I still have a long way to go, but I am confident that I know what to do.
MM: Being a ski racer is a pretty cool kind of job. What do you like most about being a top level skier?
AAK: The coolest part is having the opportunity to travel and see the world while I am doing what I love the most.
MM: What’s the thing you like least in your ski racing life?
AAK: My least favourite part is when the races get cancelled because of bad weather or conditions.
MM: If you weren’t racing for a living, what do you think you’d be doing?
AAK: I love athletics so I think I would be doing something within sports, like soccer.
MM: I’ve heard you are pretty talented with a football (soccer ball) and almost made that your career path. Can you tell us more?
AAK: Yeah when I was younger I played a lot of soccer, and in the summer I was always playing around with friends. The older I got the more serious it became and I had to make a choice between skiing and soccer. It was a really hard decision, but in the end I decide to be a skier and I am more then happy about that.
MM: Kjetil Jansrud is a massive Liverpool supporter. Do you have a favourite football club?
AAK: I really love playing soccer, but I am not really into the world of soccer. But if there is one team I like the most it is Arsenal.
MM: If you could have dinner with any footballer in the world (living or dead) who would it be? What would you eat, and what would you ask them?
AAK: I would like to meet Zinedine Zidan. We would probably eat some Mexican food and I would ask him what his secret to success was, and how he handled all the pressure.
MM: What’s your favourite non-sporting activity when you have spare time?
AAK: Spending time with my family and friends just hanging out and having fun.
MM: See any good concerts or movies recently?
AAK: Yeah I have seen two really good movies, One called Chasing Mavericks which is a true story about a surfer. And the other one is called 42. It’s also a true story about Jackie Robinson and his baseball career.
MM: Do you listen to music on your IPod before races or in between runs? If yes, what do you enjoy listening to?
AAK: No, I haven’t tried actually.
MM: How has off-season training been coming along?
AAK: It has been really good, I have had a lot of dryland training the whole summer and as far as being in shape, I am getting there. Had a couple days of skiing in Saas Fee recently and it felt great being on snow again.
MM: Have you taken any holidays this summer? Any beaches or cool places visited?
AAK: Yeah I had 3 weeks vacation down at my summerhouse in southern Norway at a place called Kragerø, which is by the ocean on an island.