Sven Hannawald: "I wasn't able to jump anymore"

14 March 2014 12:48
Sven Hannawald
Sven Hannawald -

In the 2001/02 season Sven Hannawald was the first, and so far, only jumper to win all four competitons of the 4-Hills-Tournament in one winter and made sports history. 2004 the German ended his career due to a burn-out-syndrom. He now tells his story in the book "Mein Hoehenflug, mein Absturz, meine Landung im Leben" (My rise, my fall, my landing in life). We had the chance to talk to him at the presentation of his book in Warsaw.

Why did you decide to tell your story?

Sven Hannawald: Because back then I didn't know what was happening to me and I would have liked to have such books or the knowledge. Then I would have been able to do something about it. I would have known more and could have seen the right doctors earlier. I didn't have that and so I reached the point where I wasn't able to jump anymore, even if I wanted to.

Were you not afraid that these negative emotions would come back during the writing process?

Hannawald: No, I took the time to give my body what he needed. It took five to six years and it will not happen to me again. Everything I do now is not on the level it was back then. Certain things work together and I will not put myself in danger again.

In the book you write about weight problems. You wanted to drop weight in order to achieve better results.

Hannawald: Yes, because for me this was the only way to be successful. Before I started this way, I tried different things, concerning the equipment and so on. When I did more physical training, I was stronger, but I was also heavier. Back then Austrian Christian Moser showed that it can be an advantage to lose weight. This was then the last option for me and it turned out to be a fast and successful way. I was also discussing it with the doctor and he was observing it so that it would not harm my body enormously. But of course it's not good for your health if you weigh so less.

In the book you are also talking about Wolfgang Steiert and the time he became German head coach. Do you think that your friendship suffered back then?

Hannawald: Not the friendship, but the team spirit. During our successful time, Reinhard Hess was like a Dad. He was shielding us and also calmed down the media. Because of him Wolfgang Steiert was able to work with us very well. When Wolfi became head coach he didn't realize that he couldn't be there for me like he used to. He thought that it works. But I know that a head coach has no time. He has appointments, meetings with the association, he has to take care of many things. He was just not that close to me anymore and couldn't help me. He wanted it, but I didn't let it happen because I knew it wouldn't work anyway.

You write that Reinhard Hess said he was impressed with the way you handled the stress at the historic 4-Hills-Tournament. Why were you able to deal with this so well back then, but later in your career you couldn't handle it anymore and suffered from the burn-out-syndrom?

Hannawald: I think that I had to withdraw from the situation. That's how I was able to win the 4-Hills. But not only at the 4-Hills, during the entire season, also at the Olympic Games and the ski flying World Championships, I had to withdraw to get through it. But I think it was already too much for my body. I didn't realize it, because there were still competitions and we were travelling a lot. But when it calmed down after the season I noticed that I was extremely tired and felt restless inside. I didn't know these kind of feelings before. I was not able to tell where it all came from.

Do you think that the 4-Hills-Tournament was the main reason for the burn-out?

Hannawald: I think it was the last straw. In training I later noticed that I have changed. I felt the restlessness because I just wanted to get away from it all.

You also wrote a chapter about your friendship to Martin Schmitt. He retired this season. Why do you think he was able continue ski jumping that much longer than you?

Hannawald: Maybe there are many small reasons. But I think the main difference between us two is that, unfortunately, I couldn't really relax and when one competition was over I was already thinking about the next. For Martin it was different, after the competition he was private, then he also had his parents and maybe he lived differently and could really relax. I was in a process where it was about ski jumping 24 hours. Maybe this was the reason why Martin was able to have a longer career and Kasai is still jumping well - they are just dealing with things differently.

When you were so successful you were always in a good mood, also on TV. Was this some sort of a defense mechanism in public?

Hannawald: Yes, when I knew everything was going fine I could be like I normally am, and like I am today. But there were times when I was jumping bad, then you can't be joking around in front of the camera. Many would then think, "Okay he's not jumping well an he doesn't take it serious enough." When it was not going well for me I wasn't in such a good mood. But I think that's normal. And when I was successful it was also fun.