„I am looking forward to compete with the top athletes!“
TUESDAY TALK: Hannu Manninen (FIN)
The big moment has come: Nordic Combined legend Hannu Manninen will make his comeback at the World Cup events in Lahti. In TUESDAY TALK, we caught up with the 38-year-old to see what the motivation behind coming back is, hear about goals and what he missed most.
Can you tell us a little bit about the process that made you think about and go through with your comeback? What was your main motivation?
Hannu Manninen: It all started during last spring. Head coach Petter Kukkonen gave me the idea of participating in the Finnish nationals in Taivalkoski at the beginning of April. I was laughing then but a little bit later I was thinking „ hey, why not?“ After those competitions during the summer, I have been thinking a lot about the possibility of competing more during this season. After a few months time of thinking and some conversations at home, I decided to activate my FIS-code and just give it a chance. My main motivation in the decision was to see if I could still get myself fit to compete against the best Nordic Combined athletes in Team Finland and also in other teams.
What are your goals for the comeback weekend in Lahti?
Manninen: My goal for the world cup competitions in Lahti is to get a result as good as possible in the present situation. And I hope it is enough to get some World Cup points, too.
What did you miss most about Nordic Combined?
Manninen: Most of all I have missed the teammates and coaches and all the people around the Nordic Combined. I have also missed the atmosphere in the competitions.
Looking back at the time when you were still active, what would you say are the biggest differences to how the sport looks today? What does it take to be a world-class Nordic Combined athlete today and do you think you can be among the top athletes again?
Manninen: In my point of view, nowadays you must be a good jumper and also a good skier to be a top athlete in the World Cup competitions. It is more difficult to ski through the field from far behind and get a top three result. Sometimes the cross-country races have become a little bit more tactical than they used to be.
To be a world class Nordic Combined athlete you have to be at least in top 6-10 after jumping and in cross-country race you must be one of the 10 fastest skiers to win the races. On a good day, I think I have a chance to be in top 10-15 for now but I guess I will be smarter after next weekend.
Eric Frenzel has been the dominator of the past years and is on the best way to inherit the crown of the most successful Nordic Combined athlete of all times from you. Do you look forward to facing off with him in the stellar shape that he is in now?
Manninen: Of course I am looking forward to compete with all of the top Nordic Combined athletes. It is interesting to see what is the difference between me and Eric and the other top athletes in Lahti. It looks like the whole team Germany is hard as a diamond!
Are you just thinking competition by competition this season or do you have long-term goals? Will we see you at other World Cups, leading up to Lahti 2017 as well? And what will happen after the championships?
Manninen: The season goes on competition by competition. I actually have to plan my schedule according to my duties in Finnair. It is challenging but I hope you will see me in the most important competitions this season. I have not made the final plan between the World Cups in Lahti and the World Championships Lahti 2017. I hope I can be in some other World Cups during the season, maybe at least in finals in Schonach.