Janica Kostelic: " It's nice to be on the other side"
Croatia’s Alpine skiing legend Janica Kostelic, four-time Olympic and five-time World Championship gold medallist is the holder of a number of records. She is not only the sole female to have claimed four gold medals at the Winter Olympics (2002, 2006), but also the only lady to have won three Alpine Skiing gold medals in one Olympic Games (2002).
On the FIS World Cup tour, she won thirty individual races, three overall titles (2001, 2003, 2006) and three slalom titles. In 2006, she became the third female in World Cup history (after Sweden’s Pernilla Wiberg and Austria’s Petra Kronberger) to win races in all of the sport's five “events”. Due to persistent knee and back pain, Kostelic announced her retirement in April 2007, at the young age of 24.
For as much as Janica is not very keen on giving interviews and has been trying to stay out of the spotlight since joining her brother’s team after her retirement, she exclusively agreed to answer a few questions for Fisalpine.
After retiring from Alpine Skiing in 2007, what does your life after your sporting career look like?
Life is great :) It’s always somehow on the move. I try to keep myself occupied with work, but also try to have enough time to enjoy myself with things I like to do and have time with friends and family. On the professional side, I am still spending quite some time on snow because most of the year I am on tour with the Croatian men’s Ski Team – my brother Ivica’s team - in a supporting and advisory role.
What was the hardest adjustment you had to make in the early stages of your retirement?
The routine of "normal" life.
How did you know it was time to stop competing?
I just felt I had enough of success. I was happy with what I have achieved in my career and didn't want to be greedy for more medals and records to break.
Did you prepare for your life after sports during your career and if yes, what did it look like?
I didn't prepare myself especially for the "normal" life. I just take things as they come, I do not plan too much up front.
Are you still in touch with some of the skiers you used to compete with?
These days with all social networks it’s easy to keep in touch with lots of people you used to share your days with. So thank you FB, Twitter, etc. :)
How much of your historic rivalry with Anja Paerson was true?
Somehow I knew this would be one of the questions :) I don't take the rivalry was so seriously as everyone gave attention to it. She was my rival on the slopes like all others that I skied against. Outside of the slopes she was a normal person/friend you could easily chat and laugh with. I think all sportspeople are passionate about what they do and out of that comes some healthy rivalry during competition that pushes you to improve yourself.
Which athlete of your times would you like to see compete in the Sochi Olympics and why?
There will be couple of girls from my generation competing in Sochi. Gladly those are some girls I really admire and I very much respect as a person; wishing Marlies Schild and Tanja Poutiainen to get some shiny medals! :)
How did you see the sport change between your time and now?
When it comes to how the sport changed in my eyes, I'd say nowadays there is too much technology involved to help you out. Sport should be as pure as possible. My personal opinion is that people should improve themselves and what their body is capable of doing and not what technology can make you do. I would definitely go crazy with all the testing and finding the right "setup" thing what everyone is so much into these days. Take a pair of skis and boots and make them work out for you, tame them.
You experienced the ladies' Tour as a racer and now the men’s Tour helping your brother’s team, what are the main differences you notice between the two?
Everything seems to be more relaxed and with more respect to each other. Lots of guys are cooperating and helping each other. Relationships look more authentic with not so many fake smiles.
In your experience what’s harder, racing or coaching?
It’s harder to do something you have no direct influence and no control over. When I raced I knew what my limits are and how to resolve some problem you run into. With coaching you give directions but another person has to do it. So I'd say racing is easier because you are the one in control. The other thing is that I am a woman, so it’s kind of a hard to be taken seriously. I often hear: “What do you know, you've never skied Kitzbuehel or some serious slope like that.” I don't want to be arrogant, but with some medals in my pocket, I think my opinion on how to ski somethimes should get some credit. But, it's nice to be on the other side a little and see it from both angles, put it together and share it with a racer.