Mattia Runggaldier & Øystein Granbu Lien: "A lot of extra motivation and confidence"
Before February 2012, probably only die hard followers of Nordic Combined had heard the names of Mattia Runggaldier and Øystein Granbu Lien. This changed quite quickly when the when the two 20-year-olds walked away with a gold medal each from the 10 & 5 km Individual Gundersen competitions at the Junior World Championships in Erzurum. Fisnc.com caught up with the Italian and Norwegian Junior World Champion to hear about their plans for the winter season, the World Cup and the upcoming World Championships.
Both of you had a big success in your careers last year when you won your gold medals at the Junior World Championships in Erzurum. What did a win like this mean to you?
Øystein Granbu Lien: The gold medal in Erzurum was a great experience! My goal was to win a medal and I knew I could get the gold on a good day. This success shows that I am able to reach my goals and that my work towards them is correct and well done. This win really gives me a lot of extra motivation for the upcoming season!
Mattia Runggaldier: The gold medal was very important for me and gave me a lot of self-confidence for the future. It's also very nice that I got a personalised start for World Cup, because we are a small nation with only four start rights and that means that now we have five. So it's is actually very important to us.
What are your goals for the winter season now?
Mattia: My first goal for the next winter season is to jump well so that I'll have a good ranking after ski jumping, allowing me to have a more regular cross country race. The next goal is to qualify for the World Championships in Val di Fiemme, but I think that this qualification will be a direct result of my ski jumping shape.
Øystein: The goal for this winter is to be better than last winter. Last year, I also had some very good Continental Cups competitions and I got into the Top 10 a few times. My career best is a sixth place in the Continental Cup so far and my goal this winter is to improve that and take new steps in the right direction.
As you mentioned, Mattia, as reigning Junior World Champions, you now have a personalised start right in the World Cup for the time until the next Junior World Championships. Will we be seeing you in the World Cup in the upcoming competitions?
Øystein: Hopefully, I will get some starts in the Wold Cup this winter. My first goal definitely is to be good enough to start in the first World Cup competition this season in my home hill in Lillehammer. That would be great!
Mattia: Yes, I'll be starting at the World Cup Opening in Lillehammer. It will be the only one start in WC for 2012 for me. In 2013, I have to check my starts in WC with my team.
Øystein, you have started in the World Cup in Oslo last winter for the first time. How was the experience? In how far is it different from starting in the Continental Cup?
Øystein: Oslo last year was not an optimal experience for me because I had been sick before I started. But it was incredible fun and it was a nice way to end a good season! I feel that the difference between COC and WC is that in World Cup, you need to be very good at both ski jumping and cross country. In the Continental Cup, you can achieve a good result if you ski very fast or if you jump very well. And of course in the World Cup the overall level is a bit better. But I feel that the best jumpers and the best skiers in Continental Cup are not far behind the best in World Cup!
The Norwegian Nordic Combined national team is very strong at the moment. Is this discouraging for young athletes who would like to work their way up or does it help you to be able to compare to some of the best athletes to constantly get better and better yourself?
Øystein: It's absolutely helpful for us young athletes when the national A team is so strong! In a situation like this, we young guys can compare to them and see what kind of skills we need to improve. I really see it as a big motivation that the A team is very strong!
Mattia, you're part of a young Italian team and now the "home" World Championships" in Val di Fiemme are less than 100 days away. What do you and your teammates hope to achieve there?
Mattia: The World Championships at home are the highlight of the season and everybody wants to be good there. We are a very young team and the other nations are very strong, but if everybody is in a good shape there we can compete with the others and hopefully show some good results.
And a little bit different question at the end: Many people will recognize your last name from many other winter sports athletes. Are really many people called "Runggaldier" in your region or are you from you a really big winter sports-crazy family?
Mattia: (laughs) In our region, there are a lot of people called "Runggaldier" but we're not all related to each other. I'm not directly related to Peter Runggaldier, the alpine skier and and I'm also not directly related to Lukas Runggaldier, my teammate. But in general, it's possible that the Runggaldiers are a big winter sports-crazy family!