“I Got Too Greedy” – An Interview With Sami Jauhojaervi

07 August 2011 08:01

While you might not be able to spell or pronounce his name, if you’re a fan of elite cross country skiing, you should be familiar with Sami Jauhojaervi.

Jauhojaervi is one of Finland’s top cross country skiers – the 30 year old has finished as high as 5th in the World Cup Overall, has four World Cup podiums to his credit, and two World Championship bronze medals from Liberec in 2009, where he was a member of the 4×10 k relay team and sprint relay. Last season his best finish was a third place finish in the classic sprint stage of the World Cup mini-tour in Kuusamo, Finland.

FasterSkier caught up with Jauhojaervi to talk about last years’ phenom Juha Lallukka, the 2001 Finnish doping scandal, and the elimination of the individual start 50 k on the World Cup.

FasterSkier: The 2009-2010 World Cup season was an extremely tough one for you – you failed to hit the World Cup podium, and the Vancouver Winter Olympics did not feature any Finnish men coming home with medals. But in 2008-2009 you had a career best year, finishing fifth in the World Cup overall rankings. What happened, what changed?

Sami Jauhojaervi: After a great season 2008-2009 I was having a good summer of training. I was in very good shape already at the end of August, and I was just thinking ‘this is an Olympic season, I need to push more than ever before to get a medal from Vancouver’. I became “blind” with my training, and did not have enough courage to rest. It’s easy to see in hindsight, but I made several wrong decisions from September until January, which led to a tired nervous system. I tried to get as much recovery as possible after the Tour de Ski, and got myself in a better shape, but then got a virus-infection during the Olympics which finally destroyed the last dream to get a medal from 50km.

In general, all the Finnish men became too greedy in our training, so that the results were not as good at the Olympics. I think that all of us increased the amount of high effort training a bit too much. Still, we were just about ten seconds behind the third team in 4x10km relay.

I didn´t have anything new in my trainings. I got too greedy and did not have enough courage to rest enough. The main reason for the tiredness was that I was too self-confident that I was doing the right thing, and forgot to control my recovery.

FS: In the last few years the Finnish mens team has brought along some very talented skiers, such as Matti Heikkinen and Ville Nousiainen, and you finished 4th in the relay at Oslo World Champs. What is the atmosphere around the team? Is the 4×10 a major focus for the team?

SJ: We are all individuals with different kinds of training systems and, we all are trying to do the best result as individuals. Even though this individualism lights 4x10km somehow up the highest fighting spirit in our bodies. When we are in training camps together, we are challenging each other in every training session, competing all the time and also supporting each other if somebody has problems.

FS: For most people looking on, it seemed that Juha Lallukka came out of nowhere last season to be your fourth on the relay team, and also won the 50 k at Finnish National Championships by over 2 minutes. Did you know he was at that level? Where did he come from, and is he going to be a part of your team next season?

SJ: The results Juha had were not a surprise inside the team. He is very talented man with high VO2, but just being a skating distance specialist, he has not many chances to show up during the season – on the World Cup there are usually just 2-3 skate distance races a year. Juha was about to end his career after Vancouver, but fortunately decided to continue outside the national team, which was a good decision for him. He´s been chosen for the team this season but he likes to do his training on his own. I´m quite sure he will be a part of the relay team, and skating team this season. He’s especially needed on relay team as our other skating specialist Teemu Kattilakoski ended his career this spring.

FS: What are your goals for this coming season? Are you focusing on the Tour de Ski, looking for the World Cup overall?

SJ: My focus for this season is going to be the World Cup Overall. I’m trying to become a better skater during the summer and fall so that I can get good results also in skate races.

FS: What is your opinion on the rise of North American skiing? Are both Devon Kershaw and Alex Harvey seen as legit medal contenders week in and week out on the World Cup, and for the World Cup overall?

SJ: Both Devon and Alex have developed into really good skiers, and I was positively surprised about their victory in sprint relay in Oslo! Somehow I don’t rely on that they will finish on podium in overall or even nearly every week. One problem I have considered is that most of the competition are held in Europe, and athletes from North America have to stay away from home for ages, which might make them frustrated and the level of concentration for skiing gets down?!

But it’s also good that North America shows it head in cross country skiing. You have extremely good conditions in several place for training and hopefully the example of boys and Kikkan Randall will lead to more youngsters interested in skiing. One good thing to promote skiing would be to have it shown more on TV!

FS: You’re an athlete rep to the FIS, and have taken part in the recent FIS meetings. What is your opinion on the Tour de Ski, and its increasing importance during the World Cup season?

SJ: The Tour de Ski has been a really good invention to promote cross country skiing. The interest that media shows for it is huge, but the Tour de Ski also has a little too big role in World Cup Overall. If you happen to be sick during Tour de Ski, you´ve already lost the overall competition. Cross country skiing really needs an event such as Tour de Ski, but some solutions should be made so that its role is smaller in terms of the total World Cup!

You can read the rest of the interview on http://fasterskier.com/2011/08/i-got-too-greedy-an-interview-with-sami-jauhojaervi/