Alpine Young Guns: Reto Schmidiger
By Michael Mastarciyan
Swiss slalom phenom Reto Schmidiger loves to make mental lists.
Shortly before the beginning of last season the young racer from Hergiswil, Switzerland made a list of things he’d try accomplish by the end of the race year - with two things marked super important - firstly to defend his Junior World Championship title in slalom and secondly to finish in the top-15 of the Europa Cup overall standings to gain entry into the World Cup tour.
By season’s end the results were very positive and Schmidiger’s list was full of check marks.
The first check mark came when Schmidiger made history by defending his Junior World Championship slalom title in front of a home crowd at Crans Montana, Switzerland - something no junior racer has been able to do in consecutive years since Junior Worlds began in 1982. Schmidiger followed this up by winning the Junior World Championship title in super-combined – something he didn’t have on his original list – but a definite bonus nonetheless!
Check number two came when the number crunchers who tally up the points on the Europa Cup tour did the math on Schmidiger’s season and calculated that he’d finished 7th in the overall standings - 3rd in super-combined, 5th in slalom and 18th in giant slalom – good enough to get the 18-year-old tech phenom at ticket for a season of racing on the World Cup tour.
Coincidentally, Schmidiger’s success on the Europa Cup tour included a slalom victory at Oberjoch, Germany – and a Europa Cup win was on his list too – so check that too.
Another thing on the list was a top-10 finish in a World Cup race.
This one got checked as Schmidiger put two great runs together for a 8th place finish at the final slalom of the World Cup season in front of a Swiss crowd at Lenzerheide.
Schmidiger’s accomplishment wish list for next season has no doubt been started already with dry-land training well under way and on-snow training just around the corner. Thankfully, the young Swiss slalom prodigy agreed to put this interview on his off-season “to-do” list in between off-season training sessions.
MM: Reto you are very organized in terms of setting goals and clearly always have a list of things you want to accomplish on your mind. What are some of the accomplishments on your “to-do” list for this upcoming race season?
RS: I would like to stay healthy during the upcoming 2011/12 season and get some World Cup experience in both slalom and giant slalom.
MM: Is being so well organized a “Swiss thing” or is it a “Reto thing”? Are you well organized in your life outside skiing too or do you just “go with the flow” when you’re not on the slopes?
RS: I think being well organized is a typical Swiss trait. Off the ski piste I am not so well organized. I would more say that I am more a “go with the flow” type.
MM: Some of the best speed racers on the tour began their careers as tech specialists – can you see yourself transitioning into speed events as you progress in your career?
RS: Yes I can definitely imagine that. My goal is to continue to improve in all the events and then specialize later, so I am taking it step by step.
MM: Slalom is your specialty right now – not a easy event in that you have to nail two good runs back to back to get onto the podium – is there a secret to doing this?
RS: When I’m racing slalom I’m not doing a lot of thinking. I just ski and when I finish I hope to have been fast.
MM: Do you ever listen to anything on your iPod before races or in between runs? If yes, what do you like to listen to?
RS: It’s different with every race. If I feel like listening to music before the start then I do it. Sometimes I need it, sometimes I don’t.
MM: You accomplished something no other racer has ever matched when you successfully defended your World Junior slalom title earlier this year. How important was this to you?
RS: Successful defense of my title was one of my goals. The fact that I managed to do that in Switzerland was simply wonderful and it gave me a lot of confidence.
MM: You took first place in slalom and GS at Swiss Nationals this spring and you finished ahead of some pretty strong racers – will this help you next season in terms of confidence?
RS: Yes I think it will. When it is not going so well at some point, I’ll have these successful experiences that help me rebuild and rebound.
MM: Can you list three important things you learned this season?
RS: 1. I have learned to deal with my nerves when they sometimes go crazy.
2. I have learned to listen to my body when things are not working out once in a while.
3. I have learned to manage the expectations from the media, coaches etc….
MM: You are a big fan of cycling and an accomplished rider yourself. Did you recently compete in Lugano at the Cancellara Trophy prior to the Prologue of the Tour de Suisse? How did that go?
RS: The Cancellara Trophy was a cool experience for me. I admire the achievements of Fabian Cancellara and of all bike racers. But I still prefer to ski rather than ride a bike (he says with a smile).
MM: Are you a big fan of Fabian Cancellara?
RS: I find him to be a very sympathetic athlete and I admire him a lot.
MM: Who do you think will win the Tour de France this year?
RS: Obviously I really hope that Fabian Cancellara wins the Tour and I will keep my fingers crossed for him.
MM: What have you been doing this off-season outside of dry-land training? Have you had time for a vacation after 47 ski races in one season, you must be tired no?
RS: The past season was definitely very hard for me and I was very glad that I had the chance to enjoy a few days off in beautiful Switzerland.
Reto with Markus Vogel, left, on Mallorca on the Swiss-Ski training camp in May
Reto at recent Swiss-Ski Karting event