Pekka Niemelae takes charge in Turkey
The sport of ski jumping lead Pekka Niemelae from the far North in Finland all the way to the south. Niemelae, head coach of the Finnish national ski jumping until the end of last season, started a new job as ski jumping head coach of the Turkish Ski Federation and signed his contract on July 16th in Istanbul.
“Technically speaking I'm head coach, but, as part of my job, I will also have an advisory function when it comes to the development of ski jumping, the coaching system and establishing international contacts", Niemelae said right after he started his new job.
Back ground - Ski jumping in Turkey
Turkish athletes didn't appear on the big international stage in ski jumping so far. But with the construction of a big winter sports center in Erzurum, Turkey set the course for winter sports. Erzurum is located about 800 km east of Ankara, 1950 m above sea level and with about 360 000 inhabitants it's the biggest city in eastern Anatolia. 2010 a modern ski jumping center consisting of five hills (K20, K40, K65, K95, K125) was built in Erzurum. Continental Cup events as well as the ski jumping competitions of the FIS Junior WSC 2012 and the Universiade 2011 were already held at this venue.
"Millions of Euro were invested in the winter sports facilities in Erzurum and they continue to invest. Turkey is a member of the G20, a nation with 80 million people and an important gate between Europe and Asia", explains the Helsinki-born Niemelae.
"Unfortunately recently Erzurum ski jumping stadium faced some unexpected challenges in jumping hills outruns. Construction experts and Federation etc. management will take a meeting in Erzurum in these days and after the conclusion management will inform press how situation will be solved in Erzurum. I agree with mr. President that with the Team we will not stop trainings, we will move to train now to Finland and to Europe. Local development project continue when the facilities in the hills are again in order", the Finn said about the situation there at the moment.*
* The facility in Erzurum was severely damaged by a landslide on July 15th. So far no official statements were made, we will report as soon as we have more information (Photo of the facility after the landslide)
“It is an honor to work on this development project, in which also the Turkish government, the Turkish Ski Association and FIS are involved. We have to take this project step by step. I consider improving the physical and technical abilities of the A-Team the top priority now. At the same time we have to work intensively with the juniors. Daily trainings are necessary. Besides coaching the A-Team, I will also make the training plans for the younger athletes. We already had some training sessions with the juniors. It was a lot of fun to work with these young athletes."
"It's our dream to be successful some day"
"If we have some successful trainings behind us and are on the right level, we will compete in the COC to gain experiences there. I think that we have a realistic chance to have Turkish ski jumpers in the World Cup within the next two years. Then the goal will be to get a quota for the World Championships and, of course, get on a level good enough to compete in the Olympics. These are two big steps. It's our dream to be successful some day and we are starting to work towards that goal now.
It will be an important part of the project to enthuse young people for ski jumping, and we are working on that intensively. There's a school only 50 m from the ski jumping stadium and we hope to turn that into a real ski jumping school. We get a lot of support from many groups, including the Erzurum University. But so far everything is just a vision, we have to train very hard and well. I believe that we will be successful. For example, last week a 14-year-old athlete with a promising technique improved his personal best to 100 m on the K95. Little things like this are also a positive sign for me. By the way, the name of the athlete was Muhammed Ali.
Some of the athletes already scored FIS Cup points, the next step has to be to get on a level good enough to score points in the COC in order to be allowed to compete in the World Cup and in the 4-Hills-Tournament. If we can achieve that, it will give us the necessary boost for the future.
"It's definitely a big challenge"
Of course it's a huge adjustment for me after working in Finland, Japan and France. During this time as a coach there I won 9 medals at World Championships and Olympic Games. But now this development project is extremely interesting. Somehow this project suits me perfectly and it's an honor for me to work in a country with such ambitious goals. I like challenges and this project is definitely a big challenge", Niemelae concludes.