Cross-Country Talk: Aino Kaisa Saarinen (FIN)
Aino-Kaisa Saarinen of Finland, three-time Olympian and five-time Olympic medalist sat down with FIS Cross-country to discuss her experience at the 2014 Games.
FIS: This time last year you said you were at a low point in your career but now one year later you returned home from the Olympics with two silver medals. What did you do to turn everything around?
AS: Last spring I was down and totally tired. I was thinking that I needed to change something. I decided the first thing I needed to do was to have a coach again. I called my (now) personal coach Reijo Jylhä, and he was already waiting to see if we could work together.
I also took my longest spring holiday ever. I promised myself that I would rest so long that I feel like its time to start the new season and then rest one week longer. I had five weeks rest in total.
FIS: Did you make any major changes with your training program?
AS: I only had good training sessions this year. I didn’t have a single bad training period and I was healthy the entire time.
FIS: Your results this year improved with each World Cup weekend. When did you know you were ready for the Olympics?
AS: At the final World Cups in Toblach (ITA)I knew I was ready. My self-confidence has always been my secret weapon and it was in Toblach when I knew I had my weapon back. My skis were not good there, and I lost one minute to Marit (Bjoergen) on glide, but I knew from the sector times on the uphill that I was second fastest so I knew my shape was at the level where I could do good results at the Olympics. Of course then my self-confidence was back.
I always love to compete at the Olympics and the first competition went so well (5th place in the Skiathlon) that it was easy to stay confident for the rest of the games.
FIS: At the last Olympics in Vancouver you earned an individual bronze medal in the 30 km classic. Here you won two silver medals with teammates. How was that experience now as the veteran skier on your team sharing with the next generation of Finnish female skiers?
AS: It’s interesting, after the 10 km classic people were saying how they felt sorry for me that I didn’t get a medal and that I was so close. But I just wanted to say, don’t be sad. It was one of my best races ever. Yes, there were three better than me but I was just happy to be back at the level that I used to be. Fourth place in the Olympics is still a great result.
At these Olympics we have had the best ever team spirit. I have never felt that type of team spirit before with Team Finland. Winning medals with my teammates felt so good. I really enjoyed all of it.
FIS: Speaking of team spirit I understand that you had a new “pre-race” evening activity before the 4 x 5 km relay?
AS: Yes, (big smile) we went to the games room in the athlete village and we played on the arcade machines with the car and motorcycle racing. Then we went to sing some Karaoke. Well I sang karaoke and the girls were screaming and dancing. We had such a good time. It was for sure one of my best memories from the Olympics.
FIS: I also heard that you may have had a kiwi fruit ritual during the games?
AS: Yes, the kiwis were quite good in the village. I ate two kiwis each day, but after each of the competitions where we won medals I really let myself celebrate and ate three!