Interview with record holder Simone Origone

It can be argued that superlatives are over-used in the context of sport, however, when it comes to the success of Simone Origone in FIS skiing a superlative or two seems fully justified. Simone has already had an amazing career and there is no reason to think it is over. Over the last 13 seasons, he has secured the Crystal Globe an astonishing 9 times.

The FISI athlete from the Aosta Valley in Italy has combined his sport with a career as a mountain guide and ski instructor. Between winning the overall Speed Ski World Cup 9 times and the Speed Ski World Championship 5 times; he has managed to squeeze in climbing a number of challenging mountains, most notably K2 in 2014.

Last season, Simone found his younger brother, Ivan, to be his biggest rival for the top spot. From the very start of the season, a fierce battle was fought between the two, arriving neck and neck to the World Cup Finals in Idre Fjäll. It was there that Simone struck his decisive blow winning the race and securing the World Cup yet again.

FIS: How did you feel after winning your 9th globe?

Simone Origone: It feels great, very happy, after my 1st WC in 2004, it’s been 12 years. When I won my WC #8 I thought maybe it was my last one, and this gives me motivation for the 10th.

What does it mean for you now, has it become routine?

By no means: the sport has become more competitive and I lost my World Championship title and had a bad 2015 World Cup season.

You have said you had to work hard at the slower speeds. Has it been more challenging for you technically at the slow speeds compared to the high speeds, as you have a bigger advantage at the higher speeds?

It’s a bit like in alpine, some athletes are better at downhill and other are better at Super-G. In the last 10 years I’ve been in the wind tunnel 6-7 times. What is the best aerodynamics in the wind tunnel is not always good on the snow. If you look at this sport, in the past there have always been athletes that were good at the high speeds and not at the slow speeds and ones that were good at slow speeds were not good at high speeds. At the moment athletes like Ivan and me are good at both. Klaus (Schrottshammer, AUT) is getting better and Manuel (Kramer, AUT) will be better this year for sure.

The battle last season was basically between you and your brother. Did that make it more difficult?

If you look at the World Cup last year it was always like this except the last race, but I think it has always been a lot between me and Ivan and there was always someone in the middle. First it was Philippe May (SUI) and then it was Klaus and now it’s Klaus and Manuel.

Do you share all your secrets with your brother? Is it a difficult relationship?

Of course. In the beginning we were working together and I was working a lot for him, especially in the beginning. And now in the last year we still train together so if you have a secret it’s almost impossible to keep it. There are little things; for example, I have been more often in the wind tunnel and of course I know more about the wind.

For the media this is interesting. From the outside it’s really nice but from inside it’s not easy. When I’m 1st, Ivan isn’t and when he is 1st it’s the same from me; I’m not first. So one is happy and the other one is not happy. It’s not easy.

After winning so much, the globes and your World titles, do you have any big goals left in speed skiing or in life?

You know, I do have a few goals, for example I lost my World Record, so my goal is to set a new record. I’m really motivated.. And after, of course, you need to always have some goals when you do your training to help the motivation. For example the goal now is the World Record and the World Championship and the World Cup.

What is the essence of speed skiing for you?

It’s my life… It’s my life!

Why do you think you have been able to dominate this discipline for so long, it has been 11-12 years?

Yes, I won my first World Cup in 2004 and it’s very nice to win again 12 years later. From the people back then who where on the podium, there is no one left. I’m sure also this year I can be good. I think first of all I dominate a lot because I have a background in alpine skiing, a high level in downhill and when I get inside this sport in the beginning it wasn’t that professional: I started working like in alpine skiing and I was dominating because of that for sure. I tried to stay as close to being a professional as possible. After that more athletes started to work like that.

You climbed K2. What kind of experience and challenge was that for you?

It was really nice but it was a surprise for me because I wasn’t supposed to be there. 10 days before the expedition was supposed to leave, one of the members had a problem and couldn’t go. So the chief of the expedition, the day before, asked me if I wanted to go to K2 and I said: “Yes I would like to” but I didn’t have any experience of mountains this high, I’d never been at such altitude and I didn’t know what the reaction of my body would be. The other problem was I wasn’t training for that. When you talk about people doing this they are training for one year. But not me: in the beginning I was really afraid. Day by day you get inside this mountain and then everything is normal. It’s an amazing place and I fell in love with it because it’s so incredible.

How does it compare to your sport? Any similarities regarding to pressure or challenge?

I think to climb a mountain like K2 is a lot more dangerous than doing Speed Ski. On K2 if you do something wrong you die 100%. At that height there is no rescue, so bye bye! Up there you can’t control everything, it depend on the mountain sometimes. Like the altitude. It was an expedition without oxygen and at 8200m I felt a bit sick.

In both sport the mental part can make the difference. The motivation is important and has an impact on the result. But they are two very different things: Speed Ski is fast with quick thinking and in mountaineering we do things really slow. Two different worlds… two extreme disciplines.

What about the fear and stress management. Have you been scared speed skiing or were you only scared on K2?

There is a big difference. If you make a mistake in speed skiing you may fall and perhaps break an arm but on K2 if you make a mistake you die. When we’re speed skiing we know what we are doing. Perhaps some weeks before when you sit on the couch watching TV you might be a bit scared thinking about a possible injury but never at the start of a race.

Are you going back to a 8000m mountain?

I really would like to. It was in my program this year but the problem is my knee. I’ve damaged my cartilage so it depends on that, but I really would like to go back.

You have more discipline globes than, for example, Alberto Tomba, how does that make you feel?

Yes, but that is in a different discipline. I am happy with my achievement, but no need to compare. In Italy the journalists say: “So you have won 9 globes so you are like Valentino Rossi or Sebastian Vettel”. The numbers might be the same but it’s a different sport, a different world. I’m happy with my world.

Thank you for the interview.