„Through difficulties to the stars!“
TUESDAY TALK: Han Hendrik & Kail Piho (EST)
It can be called true dedication for sure when you decided to leave friends, family and all well-known structures behind to go abroad to pursue your sport. Han Hendrik and Kail Piho know the feeling by now after they decided to leave their life in Estonia behind and moved to Trondheim earlier in the year to train at a place that produced all four reigning team Olympic Champions Magnus Moan, Haavard Klemetsen and Magnus Krog as well as double Olympic Champion Joergen Graabak. In TUESDAY TALK, they speak about their experience so far, the outlook for the future and what might be waiting for us when the winter comes.
It’s a quite big decision to leave your home country and to go somewhere else to live and train. How did you come to make that decision?
Han Hendrik & Kail Piho: Actually we thought about training abroad last summer already and because of the new Olympic cycle, now is the right time. We felt that if we want to get to a new level, we have to be brave and take some bigger steps. There are some examples from the past when Estonian athletes have gone abroad and got better results (e.g. Aldo moved to Rovaniemi and won jumping part in Kuusamo WC). Estonian winter sports is having hard times: three talented guys finished their career because of weak system and lack of money. If you want to get to the top and you are from a small country, you have to be a strong personality and as we like to say: through difficulties to the stars. (laugh)
Have you set a time of how long you want to stay in Norway?
Piho: Let's say one to three years. If we feel that this is the right place after this first year and it is OK for coaches and staff here, then we would like to stay until PyeongChang. Actually we do not expect to conquer the Nordic Combined world after only a short time here because changes take time and it might be a long-term process. But we are not the first ones here, British cross-country skier Andrew Musgrave has been here for some years.
How did your coaches and teammates in Estonia react to your decision?
Piho: They were not very surprised. Of course some of them wanted to keep the 4 athlete group together but for us it was time to move on. In winter, we will be together and compete as a team.
How do you like Trondheim so far? Are you two living together now? Tell us a bit about your situation.
Piho: Staying here has been really great. The coaches are good, the group is supportive, the facilities are great and atmosphere around us is positive. We live about 500 meters from the ski jumps in Tronderhopp dormitory. It is a perfect place for having camps because everything is nearby. We are still lacking some money but we are working on finding new people to support us. We are very grateful to our kind sponsors!
How is the training going? We have seen from the Norges Cup results that you two were doing quite good! Does it also help to have the Team Olympic Champions and Jørgen Graabak as the reigning Olympic champion living at the same place?
Piho: We are training more with the B-team but we can compare ourselves often with the champions and Norges Cup has shown that it is working. I think the champions have to be careful, because we are training hard and some competitors are on their way. (laugh)
What are your goals for the winter now?
Piho: We’d like to deliver stable results in the Top 30.
Although you were not competing, have you followed the Summer Grand Prix at bit this year? Looks like the Germans will still be very tough competition in the winter, right?
Piho: Yeah, Germans were incredibly strong but the Norwegians were still the strongest in the cross-country parts. They have been training hard and jumping may go much better really fast if you plan things right but the cross-country part is definitely not coming over-night. In Nordic Combined good jumpers are achieving good results but champions are those athletes who can go fast also in cross-country. The Summer Grand Prix is a fantastic event but what matters the most is what's happening in winter and there is still some time left!