Interview with Ana Jelusic

27 December 2009 22:02

Ana, how was your Christmas back home in Rijeka? Did you celebrate according to Croatian or Italian traditions or both, since you have family in both countries? What was your favorite Christmas present?

It was really nice to be able to go home for Christmas. I do not always get to do that since our schedule is often so crowded at this time of the year. Even this year it was a surprise since we decided to cut our training camp short due to heavy snowfall.

Our celebration was a nice combination of both Croatian and Italian ways. We spent the Christmas Eve with family and friends, and then had a nice lunch on Christmas Day. So it did not matter even if was raining cats and dogs in Rijeka. My family said it has not rained that much since 1986, the year I was born.

I bought an apartment in Zagreb last summer so I was very happy to get many useful household tools. I have only partly moved into my new apartment. It seems to be a bag-by-bag process. So far, I have slept maybe ten nights there, but that is more than I have been at my parent's place in Rijeka. Slowly, my home is starting to be in Zagreb, but it is nice to have two options and especially one that comes with my mom's cooking and washing...

Congratulations on your birthday on 28th December. At the tender age of 23 you already have years of experience in international ski racing and exactly 100 World Cup starts under your belt. How did you become such a good skier since there isn't much snow in your home town? Did you try other sports, too, or was it love at first sight?

Yes, it's really weird; I feel old and young at the same time. This is my eighth year in the World Cup but I am only turning 23!

My skiing started during a week of skiing holiday with my grandmother to Obereggen (ITA) when I was three. I then did my first race in Kranjska Gora when I was four.

A family friend who noticed I like skiing kept taking me to ski at Platak, the nearest ski resort where you can ski maybe 20 days a year. By the time I was 10 we would start to go skiing in Slovenia or Austria.

I never really did any other sports. In a small country you tend to choose and decide your sport and then stick to it. I have played little tennis, and did gymnastics for the good of skiing but otherwise skiing has really always been my sport.

Apart from skiing, what do you like to do?

In the summer, I like wakeboarding and beach volleyball. Otherwise I tend to watch movies or read books, and when I'm at home, hang out with friends I never see otherwise.

Who are you, in 3 words?

Stubborn, positive and smiling.

Tell us about life in a developing small team like yours and what kind of influence did the famous Kostelic siblings have on you.

We've never known anything different than our small team. We have grown up with a personalized program, and one-on-one dedication in training and everything we do. It can be both good and hard. It can be good when everything is focused on you. But that can also be hard since you cannot go hiding behind the team if things do not work out since it is just you.

I remember the first time I met Janica. She was 14 and I was 9 and I was very scared of meeting her because she was already a teenager and such a good skier. With time I got to know her better and we are now very good friends. Both Janica and Ivica are very nice.

When Janica was on the team, I was still young and only getting started in the World Cup. When one is 15 and the other 20, the age does matter. She was also skiing all events at that time. The last two years before she retired, she was a great advisor, and helped me in many ways. Now she can be part of skiing on her own terms, and we are more friends than teammates and do not really spend our time together on skiing.

What I am very proud is that my best season so far came after Janica's retirement. That year, our team was really able to step up to the challenge. We showed that we can be really strong without her and keep our country interested in skiing.

The early season hasn't perhaps gone exactly according to your expectations, with 10th, 29th and 17th in Levi, Aspen and Are, respectively. What do you hope from the next starts in Lienz and back home in Zagreb and later on this season?

I kind of do not know what to think. I want to believe it has just been rough going until now. I was actually happy with my finish at Levi as I thought I could just go up from there. But then I went down. I am still hoping for a good season and I am looking forward to the Olympics. Often I have managed to have really strong results at the main events like in Are where I just missed a medal in 4th place and last year in Val d'Isère where I finished 7th. With the right setting and mood I am sure I will do well at Whistler. Sometimes it just happens when you least expect it.

You have said that after your skiing career - which we hope will still continue for many years to come - you'd like to work in sports public relations. What do you think could be done to better promote skiing?

Yes I think I will surely keep going until Sochi 2014. I will be 27 then and will have to evaluate how everything including my health is at that point.

I do see myself in skiing and sports after my career too. Probably not as coach or ski teacher since I know how hard that can be. Maybe in management, or event organization. I am now in my 2nd year of college and should graduate in 2-3 years with a Bachelor's degree in logistics and management. My college is in Rijeka; it is a private school where I have a scholarship, and it is focused on allowing people like me to combine studying with their hectic schedule in sports.

For promoting skiing, I think the first thing would be to consider which places are interested in having races and have people interested in seeing skiing. There are many good examples like Zagreb or Schladming but equally many poor ones. The events should be more accessible to people and nearer to bigger cities. The city event in Moscow or the Alpine Rock Fest that combined skiing with a big concert are good examples. I really believe that there are ways things could be moved around and more action could be brought into skiing that would help us show that it is a cool sport!