Alpine Young Guns: Marcel Mathis
By Michael Mastarciyan
There’s something really special about father and son collaborations in the world of sports – especially when the relationships happen at the elite level.
One of the coolest examples happened in 1979, when legendary ice hockey superstar Gordie Howe (aka Mr. Hockey) played for the Hartford Whalers alongside his sons Mark and Marty.
Another great example was Ken Griffey Sr. and Ken Griffey Jr. playing baseball together for the Seattle Mariners in 1990 – which made history, since no other father/son duo had ever played together on the same team in the major leagues before this happened.
Collaborations such as these are no stranger to the world of alpine ski racing – one of the most recent, and most famous being the collaboration between Ivica Kostelic and his father/coach Ante, who also coached Ivica’s sister Janica into the record books.
The latest one making headlines is the collaboration between rising Austrian giant slalom star Marcel Mathis and his father, legendary Head ski technician Guntram Mathis.
The 20-year-old from Hohenems, made heads turn last February in Bansko, Bulgaria when he finished third at a World Cup giant slalom held there. A month later, at World Cup Finals in Schladming, Austria he took third again in GS.
Mathis’ serviceman for his first World Cup podiums – you guessed it - his father Guntram, a 25-year WC veteran, who for the last few years, had also been tuning the boards of another somewhat famous ski racer named – BODE MILLER!
The younger Mathis took a quick break from his busy training schedule recently to answer a few questions about his career and the special partnership he has with his Dad….
MM: Marcel, you’re 20-years-old and already have two World Cup podiums – how does that feel?
MARCEL: It feels pretty good, but it was last year and now I’m focused on the new season
MM: Do the WC podiums give you any extra confidence going ahead?
MARCEL: For sure it gives you a lot of confidence.
MM: Did your dad Guntram tune your skis for both your WC podiums last season?
MARCEL: Yes he did a good job (he says with a big smile)!
MM: Your father said in an interview that your 3rd place in Bansko was very special to him because he felt he was part of the process – how special is his involvement to you?
MARCEL: Very important, he is my dad and he brought me to ski racing. It`s great working with him.
MM: What was the celebration like after your first ever World Cup podium? Did you buy your Dad a beer?
MARCEL: No, not really. I was very tired after the race. I had only gotten to bed at around 2 o’clock in the morning the night before because I had traveled from an EC race to Bansko.
MM: You had another GS 3rd place podium at World Cup Finals in Schladming, what was that like?
MARCEL: That was really awesome! Being on the podium in Austria was very special for me.
MM: You finished in second place in the Europa Cup GS standings with four podiums, two of them victories – did you tune your own skis there?
MARCEL: No, we had our own technician there.
MM: How do you rate yourself as a ski technician? Has your father ever shared any of the secrets of his trade with you?
MARCEL: Not too bad. I had to tune them by myself a lot of times when my dad was with his skiers. He’s shared some secrets, but I don't think all of them.
MM: Your father gets up at 5am to tune your skis - have you ever gotten up that early to do something for him, make him a special breakfast maybe?
MARCEL: Haha….actually not.
MM: Your Dad has tuned the skis of a lot of very successful ski racers, most recently Bode Miller. How long did he work with Bode?
MARCEL: I think 4 years.
MM: A lot of young skiers have told me they would love to talk to Bode, have you ever had a conversation with him?
MARCEL: Of course, he is a great guy!
MM: Your Dad will be your serviceman this season, is this correct?
MARCEL: Yes, that’s totally correct.
MM: Will he be only tuning your skis or also take care of other athletes?
MARCEL: I think he will tune the skis for one more athlete (Matthias Mayer)
MM: What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your career so far?
MARCEL: Never give up!
MM: What’s the best piece of advice your Dad has ever given you about skiing?
MARCEL: That I have to ski full gas.
MM: What’s the best piece of advice your Dad has ever given you about life?
MARCEL: Haha, no comment…
MM: What’s on your schedule for this season, mostly World Cup or a mix of World Cup and Europa Cup? Mostly GS or other events too?
MARCEL: Mostly World Cup GS, but hopefully I am allowed to ski some European Cup slalom and super-G.
MM: What does your Mom think about you and your Dad working together?
MARCEL: She likes it very much.
MM: Do you and your Dad talk skiing when you get home or other things?
MARCEL: Sometimes, but not too often.
MM: What’s the best thing about working closely with your Dad?
MARCEL: That you have a person on your side who knows all of you.
MM: What’s the worst thing about working closely with your Dad?
MARCEL: It’s like every child-parent relationship - we have ups and downs (he says with a huge smile).
MM: What’s your main goal for this upcoming ski season?
MARCEL: I want to perform at a high level.
MM: How has off-season training been?
MARCEL: Pretty good! We did a lot of dryland and then we have been to Switzerland and Argentina.
MM: Have you had any time off this summer? Take any vacations? Do anything exciting?
MARCEL: No, I didn't have any vacation this summer but we went to Mallorca with the team. It was no vacation but I did get to the beach and that should be enough.