TT - Kaarel Piho: "Starting with 4 athletes in a competitive way!"
In the shadow of the overpowering German success this past weekend, another nation couldn't believe their good fortune: two Junior World Championship medals suddenly catapulted Estonia to a World Cup quota of four athletes: a full team for the Baltic nation. Fisnc.com caught up with coach - and brother of two athletes - Kaarel Piho.
Your team really has been stepping it up at the Junior World Champioships in Liberec - a bronze medal each for Kristjan Ilves and your brother Han-Hendrik Piho in the 5 and 10 kilometre-Gundersen events. Did this result come as a surprise for you or did you know, your team had a good chance?
Kaarel Piho: Han's third place was not really a surprise to me given that he had already taken World Cup points before. With Kristjan, in the summer, he showed that he can jump very far but in autumn, he got a little bit lost in the hill. After the new year, he suddenly got his jumping back on track and developed a very stable shape. In four out of five jumps, he can do well by now. As he's still young, the sprint competition is easier for him because he can last 5 kilometres. He's quite fast in the sprint. So, there was a chance and he used it very well! (laughs) There were also quite a lot of Estonian fans at the Junior World Championships, so they also knew something good was going happen there (laughs).
This means in addition to your World Cup quota of two athletes, you have two more personalised start rights now which gives you the chance to bring a full team for the next World Cup events. Is this something you are considering?
Piho: Yes, there will be four guys going to Sochi. We really want to invest in these four guys to have a good team. I believe also during this season, we might also bring four athletes to Lahti and Holmenkollen if possible.
How important is this start right for the young athletes to make their experiences among the best athletes of the world and develop?
Piho: I think it's really important for Nordic Combined athletes to go through a full season and take every opportunity to compete. We are not like cyclists who have competitions the whole year round and then only one of two months of vacation. We really have to use the whole winter, otherwise we will be spending 8 months practicing for only a couple of competitions. We believe this is the way that progress is being made, collecting experiences in competitions.
Last weekend, we had the Penalty Race on as a different format again. Do you prepare for it in any different way or do you treat like an Individual Gundersen race considering the preparations?
Piho: We go as usual because it's easier. In the Nordic Combined overall, it's two sports and it's complicated enough already, therefore it's not good to think even more about other stuff. We try to do it in the best way we can and try to get used this new format.
Completely different question: you're working as a coach now while your brother are your athletes. Are family dynamics sometimes an issue in the team and how do you deal with it?
Piho: (laughs) Ah, you know, we are four brothers and we have been training since, ah I don't know. I think Kail went to training when we was only five years old, so we're quite used to all of this. For me personally, the coaching work is not so hard compared to the job as a waxing technician. That is quite challenging (laughs)! I am really happy that I can be here for the World Cup competitions in January this year.
With Kail, we have taken a new insight to his jumping technique. Before he had some good jumps and really many bad jumps and now, in Seefeld for example, he did not jumps less than 90 metres in any jump and also in Klingenthal, the trainings were good! I believe he has a lot of potential because of the type of body he has.
With Karl-August Tirmaa, we're a little bit lost when it comes to his cross-country part but we have now realized some things we can do. He has been training the same way as Kail and a little bit for his own needs as well, so I hope he will finally be able to show what he can truly do on the cross-country track.
What's your plan for the next World Cup stops now, will we be seeing you and your team everywhere?
Piho: I will switch positions with head coach Tambet Pikkor again who has become a father in the meantime, but he will be going to Sochi now. After that and before the World Championships, the guys will have another training camp in Lillehammer to prepare instead of going to Almaty.
We will also be getting a new main sponsor for Nordic Combined in Estonia. If we go to the next World Cup stops with four guys we have to ensure we can have at least one waxing guy with us. This development, it's really good. The Estonians like winter sports and especially Nordic Combined very much! Now we will receive a new sponsoring contract and hope we can start with four athletes in a really competitive way.