Nordic Combined as a "surprise sport" - Taking Stock in Slovenia

10 November 2012 12:40
Slovenia - Jelenko
Slovenia - Jelenko -

After casting a closer look on Team Japan, we're back to Europe now with a new edition of  our series "Taking Stock". This time, head coach Primoz Triplat answered some questions about the difficulties and successes of the Slovenian Nordic Combined teams who can look back on a successful season in the Continental Cup with overall winner Marjan Jelenko and also in some podium places during the Summer Grand Prix.

For the upcoming winter, the sights are definitely set on the World Championships like in most of the other nations, too. "Rank eight with the team and three athletes in the Top 30 would be really great", Primoz Triplat phrases the targeted goals for Val di Fiemme. "Our other main goal is to get the quota for a team at the Olympics next year. In the World Cup we're after Top Ten results and a minimum of three athletes to get points more than three times."

"When you tell people in Slovenia about Nordic Combined they're surprised"

But as in many other smaller nations in the Nordic Combined family, money and manpower is always a topic in Slovenia. "I think, our way of working pays off very well in the junior category. For the seniors we would need more athletes, coaches, doctors and bigger service teams." But with Nordic Combined being an expensive sport where you have to buy two pairs of equipment and have no idea if it will finally pay off, the situation is definitely not easy. The media visibility of the sport is low. Head coach Triplat sees the situation in a realistic light: "People know ski jumping and cross-country. When you tell them about Nordic Combined, they're kind of surprised! We're just in the media when we're very good… or bad!".

Problems also occur when it comes to the acquisition of new athletes. "You know, in Slovenia a lot of juniors only want to jump and for cross-country, you can't find anyone. For now, we have six senior athletes, which is a record high for Slovenia, by the way, and about eight juniors. That's all. Until the age of thirteen, we have some more, but Nordic Combined mostly is the second choice. Ski Jumping always comes first." To counter the effects of this, all junior athletes in Slovenia up until the age of thirteen have to train on roller-skis as well but it will take some time until the effects of this will be visible on a high level of the sport.

Planica as brand-new training centre

Right now, the six senior athletes are split into an A and a B team with three athletes each. Triplat's Assistant Coach Igor Cuznar travels to the Continental Cup competitions while Triplat is responsible for the World Cup team with the assistance of Ales Gros and Marko Gracer on the cross-country side as well as some club coaches from Slovenia who assist when they can. The main training centre in Slovenia is located in Kranj where the ski sport gymnasium for the junior athletes is located, too. In addition to that, two new hills were just opened in Planica. Triplat is exited: "Next year, we will also get a cross-country stadium. It will be great for the Slovenian sport to get a great new training centre there." Right now, we just have one two-kilometre track in Pokljuka and all the other training is held on the streets. It's actually quite dangerous but we're living in Slovenia, for us, this is normal!"

Asked about his plans for the upcoming weeks and the first competitions of the winter, Triplat who has been a ski jumper himself and has trained the Slovenian Nordic Combined team since 2008, answers: "We went to Pokljuka for cross-country training for one week and after that we will jump in Planica." A team of two athletes will be starting in the first World Cup competitions in Lillehammer, the rest will stay in Slovenia and train in Pokljuka or Planica. Who these two athletes will be is not yet detemined. Former Junior World Champion and reigning COC overall winner Marjan Jelenko might be one choice for the Slovenian head coach. "Marjan definitely has to step it up this year. We have not yet decided who will start in the World Cup but he's definitely among the candidates", Triplat says about his young talent. If there is some money available, there will also be some Slovenian starters at the first two Continental Cup competitions in the USA.