Austrian veteran Willi Denifl is 37 years old and does not show any signs of slowing down. For TUESDAY TALK, he reflected on his plan for the upcoming season, Austrian team dynamics and why the World Championships in Seefeld are the best thing that could happen to him.
How did you spend the time since the season end?
Willi Denifl: Actually, not like everybody thinks, with holidays and doing nothing. I started training for the new season two days after the season finals in Schonach. But I had an amazing reception at my home in Stubaital. It’s always great fun to say goodbye to the season with a nice party with friends and supporters. I also went back to Finland to use the great winter conditions up there again.
You have just been nominated for the Austrian national team again. How do you look forward to the cooperation with your experienced and young teammates?
Denifl: I am very relaxed about that because we have become a great team. It’s really true, everybody supports everybody and we ALL work into the same direction. We have a great mix in our team.
Training season will start soon again. What is first up for you?
Denifl: First, we will have a common training camp and we will discuss how to proceed there. I already have my plan figured out, which will be sharpened and improved in cooperation with the coaches. There will be a lot to do and I am already looking forward to the next weeks.
After Otepää unfortunately had to be cancelled this winter, the world’s best Nordic Combined athletes and the Nordic Combined Ladies will now share a venue for the first time at the Summer Grand Prix in Oberwiesenthal. What do you think about this milestone and did you think you’d actually get to witness this in your active career?
Denifl: I think it’s super great! It was about time that Nordic Combined does not have to end with the youth age for the ladies as well. It just is an amazing sport and everybody who has fun doing it should be able to do it. The first steps have been taken already and even though it still is a way to go for the ladies, I am sure the level of competition will rise even more when there are World Championship medals or Olympic Games on the horizon.
A home World Championship is on schedule for you in Seefeld in the upcoming winter. Which goals do you have for this event?
Denifl: This is the best thing that could happen to me: a World Championship right on my doorstep. I am from the Stubaital, which really is not far. My club’s “home hill” is Bergisel and it would be so amazing for me to finally be able to have a competition there. We Nordic Combined athletes never had the chance and now is the time. So this would be a new competition hill for me, actually. I am of course working hard to qualify for the team there. It’s a big challenge for me.
Speaking of challenges, you do probably hear questions about a possible career end on a regular basis. What motivates you to continue with high-performance sport and do you have a plan for a time after sport?
Denifl: Yes, I am at an advanced age for an athlete and so it is quite normal to be asked about it. But I am having fun with Nordic Combined and success is also still there. I just have the feeling that it is still possible to be among the best.
I do have plans for the future, however, what exactly I’ll be doing will be decided when it’s time. I have some offers and I will think about them in peace and quiet when I am done with sports. But I feel I have a loooot of time until then! (laughs)