Experience personified: Christoph Bieler
With 36 years one of the oldest athletes of the Nordic Combined circus, Austrian Christoph Bieler of course is one of the prime candidates for another edition of "Experience personified". Bieler who has been a regular on the World Cup since 1997 reminisces on the two-day competitions of the past and gives his opinion about new developments like Ladies Nordic Combined.
What would you says is the main difference between Nordic Combined when you started with it and Nordic Combined as it is today?
Oh wow. If I start listing everything that has changed, we'll be here until tomorrow. I have been doing this for quite some time! (laughs)
Generally speaking, I would say almost everything has changed starting with the equipment until the number of competitions. When I came to the World Cup, Nordic Combined competitions were still held on two days: jumping on Saturday, cross-country skiing on Sunday, so we just had one competition per weekend.
Everything became more compact until now, be it the competition formats, the whole sporting year or the level of performance of the top athletes. The point system changed and everything went more into the direction of the cross-country part. A new type of athletes was created by that and the level of performance between the top athletes is much closer together than before.
In earlier days, we had huuuge gaps between the athletes, now everything is close together and really exciting, right until the end of the competitions. Usually quite big groups form on the track and because of that, the sport stays very exciting and attractive.
How do you view the development of the sport these days, especially in regards to Ladies Nordic Combined?
I think it's a good moment to offer the ladies the chance to also compete in Nordic Combined. But as you can see from Ladies Ski Jumping, it will take a while to bring them to a good level in a World Cup tour. As of now, Ladies Ski Jumping is booming which will lead to also more and more female Nordic Combined athletes coming along. So yes, I think it's a good thing.
Our Race Director Lasse Ottesen is doing a good job in developing the discipline, be it regarding professionalism, prize money or the attractiveness for spectators on location and for the media.
If you had one wish for the future of Nordic Combined, what would it be?
Hmm, I really have to think on that one. There are quite many but essentially - and this is really a long-term wish - I would like to see Nordic Combined developing back to what it truly is. Nordic Combined athletes are the kings of Nordic winter sports. We have the two most attractive disciplines of Nordic ski sports and combine them.
But it's similar to being a decathlete in track-and-field. They are also having a hard time being really popular. But this would be my wish. I would love to see Nordic Combined developing into the direction in which biathlon went: with a lot of competitions, masses of spectators, huge media interest and therefore also more prize money.
Something you have always wanted to say in an interview?
Thank you that I am able to have the best job ever!
Do you have any plans for after your active career?
Yes, I have been asked that quite often in my age now. I have started a correspondence course two years ago to have something to show for when I end my career. With 99,9% certainty I can say that there will be no more Olympic Games for me, so I am headed towards retirement sometime soon. A job as a coach would be quite attractive to me, I am not 100 % sure yet. But I want to continue work in the Nordic sports business in some or the other way, be it in management or as a coach.
Christoph Bieler Facts
Now I have to say Seefeld, right? (laughs) But definitely, if we are talking about the environment, how the venue is run, the people involved, it's definitely Seefeld.
Other than that I have been a big fan of Japan in all these years that I have been competing. So I am really happy that Sapporo is back on schedule. It's always windy, always difficult conditions and I like that. I am a fan. It's one of my favourite hills.
For me as a better ski jumper it definitely was the mass start. I think it is important to have one more format when it comes to the individuals, so I really like it to have the TRIPLE in Seefeld with two different formats next to the 10 km. It's also great to have the 2 jumps and 15 km back for the World Cup finals. It changes things a bit so it does not become boring. I also think it's not that hard to understand for the audiences, who crosses the finish line first wins. But well, my favourite one was the mass start.
First World Cup start: 14.01.1997 in Val di Fiemme, ITA
First World Cup podium: 25.01.2004 in Sapporo, JPN (rank 3)
World Cup starts: 237
World Cup victories: 6
World Championship victories: 1
Olympic medals: 3
Olympic victories: 1