Cross-Country Talk: Johannes Dürr (AUT)
Austria’s Johannes Dürr had a breakthrough winter last year. For the first time in his career he cracked three times top 10, in Val di Fiemme at stage 6 and the final climb of Tour de Ski and then in Davos. 2012/13 was important for Johannes Dürr not only from the sports perspective. He got married and his wife was delivered of a son, now 4 months old.
FIS Cross-Country News talked to the young Austrian Cross-Country skier during the high altitude camp in Livigno.
Q: Johannes, you come from a big family with eight kids. It must have been interesting growing in such a big family?
Johannes Dürr: It was great. We had much fun at home and there were always many things happening. All of us fit together very well. I was the fifth child and I had to fight for my place (he laughs).
Q: Did growing among so many siblings give you an advantage to your life?
J.D.: It is a part of my personality and it fits to me. Maybe it gave me some kind of advantage over others. I learned many things and it has been very inspiring to have older and younger siblings.
Q: Are you the only one who is a professional athlete?
J.D.: Yes, I am. My brother, though, was a very good mountain runner. He was third in the Junior World Championships in a relay. And my younger sister did also cross country skiing.
Q: When you were a kid, you were very active doing many sports, especially football. What made you decide for Cross-Country Skiing?
J.D.: The main reason I quit football for skiing was the atmosphere. We are a great team, we have a lot of fun training and competing. That was the main difference to football. In skiing you are nothing without your team. Of course, during the competition, you are on your own, but otherwise, a good team is the most important thing.
Q: How is the current Austrian team? How often do you train together?
J.D.: It is great. As I said, we fit together very well and we have great fun together. There are several guys, Harald Wurm, Bernhard Tritscher, Max Hauke, Aurelius Herburger, Dominik Baldauf and Martin Stockinger. Our basic training scheme is two weeks on a joint training camp and then two weeks working at home. This system suits me very well as I have a four-month old boy and I can spend some time with my family. For the fifth year I am trained by Gerald Heigl. The training system and communication with him works very well.
Q: Austrian Cross-Country Skiing seems to be rising.
J.D.: Well, there is still a tough and long way. When you have a closer look on result lists you would find out that we are still suffering in distance competitions. We have to continue work hard and hope that in a few years we will have a team that will be strong enough to be competitive in relays.
Q: You made yourself a big step forward last winter. Was it the best season so far for you?
J.D.: Yes, it was. No doubts about that. The most important competition was stage 6 of the FIS Tour de Ski in Val di Fiemme, 15 km mass start classic. I finished 8th and for the first time in my career I was in top 10. I cannot describe feelings I had that day. Finally I had a proof I can do it, I was suffering the years before. I made two steps forward and one backwards, but now I knew I was on the right way.
Q: What made the difference?
J.D.: The change happened in my head. I did not do any big changes in training. I knew I was working hard, training a lot, doing the right things but I missed the results. When I saw I could compete with the best, I gained self-confidence and the belief I can do it again and even better.
Q: Speaking about training, how has been your summer?
J.D.: It has been very good. I started to train in May with basic workouts, such as running and biking. Then I continued with intervals and high altitude. Small problems happened in Sognefjell. I crashed and broke two ribs. It caused me a lot of pain and I had to change my training program little bit.
Q: How did you cope with the injury?
J.D.: I think I dealt with it quite well. I have some experience with that. My shape is not so bad and it is stable. I think winter has not been put in danger.
Q: What are your strengths and weaknesses?
J.D.: My biggest weakness is sprint performance. I wanted to focus on it this summer but the accident and the ribs made it impossible. Nevertheless, I want to work on my sprinting skills and train more with our sprint specialists. Hopefully I can copy something from them.
And my biggest strength? I think it is endurance, both physical and mental. When I finished 30th in the Austrian nationals in 2009, it was not a good feeling. I had to decide if I fight back or quit. I went for the first option.
Q: As a father of a four-month old baby boy, has your attitude to sport changed?
J.D.: Yes, it has changed but in a positive way. I love being with my family, my wife and our kid. My wife is a great woman and she makes it possible for me to be a professional athlete.
Q: What about next season? What are your goals?
J.D.: I don’t think too much about Olympics. There is a long way to Sochi and many things can happen. I want to focus on training. It is important my injury heals quickly and I can work hard. Naturally I have goals and hopes for the next winter but nothing like “I want to be Top 10 at the Olympics”. The most important thing for me is to do a good job now and I believe results will come. If I have a good race and I finish 15th, I will be happy knowing I did my best. I do not bother myself with things I cannot influence.