TT - Watabe & Gruber: "Winning the Summer Grand Prix together was amazing and a lot of fun"
It is well-known that successful athletes are made in the summer time but the way to winter and especially to the Olympics is a long one and it's not always easy to hold onto a good shape. Summer Grand Prix winner Bernhard Gruber knows this all too well from his experience last year. For this edition of TUESDAY TALK, fis-ski.com caught up with the Austrian and fellow winner Akito Watabe from Japan to talk about Gruber's brand-new album, the autumn preparation and overcoming Watabe's "second/fourth-place syndrome".
Berni, you already know the role of Summer Grand Prix winner from last year and you were able to take your summer shape into winter quite well. Is there anything you would like to do differently this time to make your winter performance even better?
Bernhard Gruber: The summer was very good and I had loads of fun at the Summer Grand Prix again. Standing on the very top of the podium together with Akito was a new and interesting experience. Unfortunately I have lost the thread a bit afterwards in regards to my ski jumping and now I have to work to keep up with the others.
For the rest of the autumn preparation, I just want to work well and get back to showing good jumps. It will be difficult to keep up with the other guys as I can already see that everybody is in a really good shape. But my goal is to close the gap and go full throttle again.
I am feeling quite good in regards to the cross-country part, though. I have trained well and being an older athlete, I know what I have to do to get fast. I will do exactly that so that I am able to have a good start into the winter.
Akito, judging after the Summer Grand Prix, you are on a really good way into this Olympic season. How did the preparation since the SGP go? Did you have good training camps in Europe?
Akito Watabe: I spent a lot of time in Europe in this summer: 3 weeks in June/July, the Summer Grand Prix time and 5 weeks in September/October. I also went New Zealand in August and used a lot of time for cross-country skiing on snow this summer.
I have also worked on my jumping technique quite much. I had a good summer and I have the feeling, I am on a good way. Everything is going well.
After you were a bit unlucky last season with a lot of second or fourth places, you finally stood on top of the podium (together with Berni) this summer. Was it a relief to finally overcome this "second/fourth-place syndrome"?
Watabe: I think was not unlucky, just not strong enough to win the race. I wasn’t a strong enough sprinter on the home stretch. That is reason why I finished with a lot of second or fourth places. But I improved a lot of things in ski jumping and also in cross-country during this summer. As a result, my performance was totally changed and I finally won the Summer Grand Prix together with Berni. It was really amazing!
I hope I overcame "second/fourth-place syndrome" with this. But I’m not sure because I finished fourth in Villach and second in Oberstdorf! (laughs) Let’s see in the winter season.
What are your goals for the first period of the winter until Christmas?
Watabe: I just want to do my best. If I am able to win some individual competitions, that would be perfect!
Berni, after you couldn't talk about your CD before the Summer Grand Prix, can you tell us a little bit now of how this came to pass? Where can we get the CD now?
Gruber: Well, I am nobody who has to shout everything from the rooftops. During the summer, I needed the time to work on this in peace and quiet. We wanted to keep the album quiet for as long as possible so that I could concentrate on my sport and not cause too much furore. My bandmates have done an amazing job for me so that we were able to do the album quite quickly. It was a bit of a from naught to hundred thing when we came out with a complete album but for the creation process, this was the best way.
The whole project was a present to me from my sponsor, the Marktgemeinde Bad Hofgastein and the Music Gymnasium Borg in Bad Hofgastein which I have also attended for a year. Actually, this was a reward for my two silver medals from Val di Fiemme and a really really cool thing!
The CD will be available for purchase soon, our main sponsor Stiegl is helping with that. We still have to check if the album will actually go into the stores or if we sell it only via the internet.
The Nordic Combined World Cup has not been in Japan for quite some years now (since 2006). Is that something you would like to experience again, have a "home competition" in the World Cup, Akito?
Watabe: I’m hoping that this idea will come true again one day. I competed in last World Cup in Japan, I think it was in Sapporo. It was a really great experience for me. In these days, many Japanese people could watch “live” Nordic Combined in Japan. That was amazing!
Japan is far from Europe and I of all people know that it's a long way to travel and it won't be easy to have it back on the World Cup tour. I enjoy competing in Europe, for sure, but for me, most of the countries have a similar "feel", regarding the culture, people, cities, food and so on. I think for the minds of the athletes it would be good to also go to a quite different place! If Japan would go back into the Nordic Combined World Cup calendar, it would be a great trip for everybody, I am sure!