Alpine Young Guns: Johannes Kroell
By Michael Mastarciyan
Ski Trivia Question: When was the last time an Uncle & Nephew tandem won the downhill title in World Cup and Europa Cup in the same year?
Ski Trivia Answer: 2012 - when Klaus Kroell grabbed the World Cup downhill title and his nephew Johannes Kroell won the same title in Europa Cup.*
Wait a second - if that’s the right answer, what’s the deal with the asterisk???
Okay, here’s the explanation - strictly speaking, while Uncle Klaus and little Johannes are blood relations, Johannes is actually the son of Klaus’ cousin, and not a nephew in the truest sense of the word – but hey, that doesn’t stop him from calling Klaus his “cool uncle.”
The “cool” part also comes from watching “Uncle” Klaus land on the podium four out of the six times the two have raced in WC downhill together – one of four times being a victory at Kvitfjell, Norway last March – talk about being a role model for your little nephew!
We caught up with the 21-year-old Austrian speed wunderkind recently for a quick Q & A - here are the highlights….
MM: Okay Johannes, let’s talk family first – what is your exact relation to Klaus, is he your Dad’s cousin?
JK: Yes, he is my Dad’s cousin.
MM: I read an Austrian newspaper story about you and Klaus in which you said you considered him to be a “cool” uncle? Is this true?
JK: Yes, in the media they often wrote that he is my uncle, after this I started to call him uncle myself!
MM: What makes Klaus “cool” in your opinion?
JK: He’s always supported me, and always come through for me! We share the same hobby – and that makes him cool!
MM: In the article there was a reference made to the American television show Two and a Half Men, where actor Charlie Sheen played the Uncle. Klaus seems like a pretty quiet, low-key guy; does he have any hidden Charlie Sheen-type personality traits?
JK: None that I have ever seen, and he is no “player”! If he has a wild side, he hides it well!
MM: Are you a fan of the TV show Two and a Half Men?
JK: Yes I like the show, it’s funny.
MM: What’s the relationship between you and Klaus more like – two friends, two teammates or Uncle & Nephew?
JK: It is a mixed bag of being friends and relatives! It’s great that we are teammates because I always wished that we would be together in the World Cup group!
MM: Do you meet each other at family gatherings, parties or celebrations?
MM: Have you ever asked Klaus for any ski racing advice?
JK: During inspection I sometimes ask him about the best lines, but I don’t ask him for technical hints, I clear that with my coaches.
MM: You’ve raced against Klaus six times on the World Cup tour, what has that been like?
JK: Like reaching the peak of a mountain you’ve always wanted to be at.
MM: You watched him step onto the podium four out of those six times, one of them a victory – does that inspire you?
JK: For sure!
MM: Are you proud of him as Kroell family member when he is successful?
JK: I'm always happy for him when he has a good race!
MM: Was Klaus a ski racing idol for you when you were younger?
JK: I remember great times watching him while sitting in front of my TV with my fingers crossed. He’s always been my idol and I’ve always found it hard to believe that my “uncle” was such a successful man!
MM: Okay…on to ski racing - you won the Europa Cup DH title last season, how did that feel?
JK: Great, it was a goal I had my aim on for a long time! A success such as this always feels great!
MM: Your three Europa Cup victories, and your two other EC podium finishes all came in downhill – is going down the mountain in a straight line the only way to race?
JK: Seems so, it's definitely the simplest way.
MM: Would you say downhill talent runs in the family since your “Uncle” Klaus has also distinguished himself in the speed events?
JK: I did my first ÖSV-Kader Limits with slalom and super-G results – but my training somehow went in the direction of DH, it could be that this had something to do with my last name. But it was a good decision!
MM: Is downhill your favorite event?
JK: No I like all the disciplines a lot, downhill a bit more because of my successes there.
MM: Benni Raich once joked that he was shocked to see Manny Osborne-Paradis win the Super-G in Lake Louise because Manny’s turns were normally like the ones made by the Queen Mary (the famous ocean liner) – how would you rate your ability to make turns?
JK: Let's just say it doesn't disturb me when turns are a bit longer (he says with a big smile)!
MM: Italian downhill racer Mattia Casse told me, “Speed is inside me; speed is my life, my bible, my future.” What does speed mean to you?
JK: It's my passion!
MM: What’s the fastest speed you’ve been clocked at?
JK: I have no idea.
MM: You’ve raced downhill in World Cup and Europa Cup – have you noticed any differences?
JK: World Cup races are longer and more pretentious!
MM: Have you ever felt fear before, during or after a downhill race?
JK: No fear - fear isn't good! But when I have been on difficult tracks like Beaver Creek and Kitzbuehel there is much more tension in my body.
MM: You’ve raced at the Hahnenkamm – what did you think the first time you looked out of the start gate?
JK: “Oh my God!”
MM: What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given regarding ski racing and who gave it to you?
JK: They all just cook with water! Ha-ha that’s a joke! My Europa Cup coach often said that. The best advice cannot be given from anybody; the best advice always comes from your own experiences.
MM: Do you have any advice for young racers?
JK: Set goals that can be reached, go step by step, and always train hard!
MM: Will you be racing World Cup full-time this upcoming season?
MM: What’s your main goal for this upcoming season?
JK: To score as many World Cup points as possible to get myself within the Top 20.
MM: How has off-season training been coming along?
JK: Good! We had really good days in Zermatt. I hope it keeps going on like that!
MM: Have you taken any holidays? Done anything exciting?
JK: Yeah, I was in Croatia and did a road trip to Paris, I enjoyed that a lot!
MM: Do you have hobbies or other sports you enjoy when you’re not ski racing?
JK: I enjoy motocross!