Jernej Damjan: "You have to compete all the time"
In our series "FIS Ski Jumping-Talk" we present interviews with ski jumping athletes and officials. A week before the start of the FIS Grand Prix in Wisla we spoke with defending champion Jernej Damjan (32) of Slovenia.
At age 32, Jernej Damjan is the veteran in the Slovenian team. He has been competing in the World Cup for 11 years, in January 2014 he took his first and so far only win in the World Cup in Sapporo. Together with the Slovenian team Damjan won three bronze medals at ski jumping and ski flying World Championships. Last year he took the overall title of the FIS Grand Prix.
FIS Ski Jumping: Hello Jernej, how did your summer go so far?
Jernej Damjan: in the last two months I spent a lot of time training and preparing myself especially for the winter. This year I decided that I won't participate in all the competitions in summer and focus on the winter instead. I won the Grand Prix last year, so now I have to achieve bigger goals (laughs).
FIS Ski Jumping: Where will we get to see you this summer?
Damjan: I will go to Japan, Almaty and Chaikovsky. These are all the summer competitions I'll take part in this year.
FIS Ski Jumping: So you won't be defending your title from last year.
Damjan: No. I would, if it would be more important. But I think it means for for us athletes than it does for the media and public. It's better if you are strong in winter. In the last two years I was competing in almost every event, so now I need more time and a break from the competitions.
FIS Ski Jumping: You became a father last year. How has your life changed since then?
Damjan: It has changed a lot. I have a lot less time to rest. It was easier in the first sixth or nine months. Now my daughter started crawling and standing up and you have to really watch her. I hope she starts to walk alone soon, but now she's falling all the time and you have to be there. It is a good endurance training (laughs). I was on vacation now for ten days and today I was training again and I didn't lose anything.
FIS Ski Jumping: How satisfied were you with last season?
Damjan: I'm partly satisfied. I was doing really well until the competitions in Japan, but then my form was going down. I didn't really know why, but I think it was because it was a bit too much of everything for my body. I was tired and didn't have much time to rest because of the baby. Now I have to be smart and decide when I train and when I rest. I'm not the youngest anymore (laughs).
FIS Ski Jumping: The Slovenian team is extremely young and talented. How difficult is it for you to keep up with the younger athletes?
Damjan: It's not easy because you have to train all the time, you have to compete basically all the time. It might seem that there is always a certain team in the World Cup, but Goran Janus always leaves it open. You have to do your best and if you are not good enough you stay home. I think that's really good for Slovenian ski jumping and also for my motivation because I cannot rest and I have to keep on working.
FIS Ski Jumping: You were probably a bit disappointed after last year's World Championships. What was missing for the Slovenian team to win a medal?
Damjan: I don't know. I think we left that behind, because it was only one team competition. If it's only one event, it's stupid to over-analyze it. I think that we just didn't like the hill and the conditions there. I didn't have even one good jump. I didn't know how to jump there. It was frustrating, I have to admit that. But you have to move on and focus on the new challenges ahead.
FIS Ski Jumping: How did you experience the season final in Planica? It must have been an unlucky situation for the whole team when Peter lost the overall World Cup title in such a close race.
Damjan: That's true. When I saw Jurij Tepes jumping I really thought that he could be the one who makes the difference at the top. On Friday I asked him what he would do, if it would be in his hands if Peter wins or not. He said that he doesn't know and maybe for the team he would not do a telemark. Then I asked what he would do if he would be attacking from behind. He said he has no clue. What happened, happened and Peter was not angry at Jurij. It's normal that you always try to do your best. It was not very good for Slovenia, but it will always be in the history books that they had the same number of points. Nobody will forget that.
FIS Ski Jumping: Let's look ahead. What are your goals for the next season?
Damjan: Like I said, I'm totally focusing on the winter. In summer I'm only going to these three events, basically just to have some competitions and because I really like traveling. I like Japan, even if I'm not good I always like to be there. It's like a "competition vacation" for me. In winter I hope to be more consistent, maybe on a higher level. I don't want to be on the podium only once, but a bit more often. Then I would be satisfied. Things like a good result in the overall World Cup then come with the results I would like to achieve.
FIS Ski Jumping: And what about the team? Is the Nation's Cup a goal?
Damjan: I don't think that any of us athletes really thinks about the Nation's Cup. There are so many jumpers and so many competitions that it's very hard to predict. We will see what will happen. Goran Janus is usually the guy who is competing for the Nation's Cup (laughs).
FIS Ski Jumping: Last question: Is there a headline that you would like to read about yourself?
Damjan: I think there are plenty. It's all about the goals I would like to achieve. Winning an individual medal at World Championships is such a goal for the future, and an Olympic medal. In Sochi everybody thought we would win a medal but then we had the problems with Robert Kranjec. I was telling everybody that we haven't won it yet. It's never easy, things can change from one day to the next. You have to stay positive, work hard and hope for the best.
FIS Ski Jumping: Thank you very much and all the best!